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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California
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Nation's Largest Free Health Clinic Kicks Off

Four-day health clinic provides free medical and dental care to thousands of people without insurance. 

Thousands of people expect to receive free health care treatments at the Sports Arena in South L.A. this weekend. The four-day event, produced by Care Harbor, provides free dental, vision, and acupuncture exams and treatments, as well as free vaccinations for all patients. 

Care Harbor is a California non-profit which sets up the nation’s largest free health care clinics in urban areas. For the past four years, Care Harbor has treated over 13,000 patients. As many as 1,000 people per day show up for treatment.

People getting the free health screenings waited in line for admission wristbands to the clinic last week.   

For many people attending, the clinic is their only way to see a doctor or dentist. 

“I came today to get my wisdom teeth out,” said Fermin Ribera, a clinic patient. “I don’t have the money to go to a regular dentist. “

Medical professionals and dental students volunteer to help at the clinic so patients receive medical care equivalent to treatment they would pay for at a doctor’s office.

“We focus on improving patients’ oral hygiene,” said Cliff Bretthauer, Dental Assistant. “We do extractions, cleanings and fillings.” 

Patients receive dental and vision screenings (Brenna Devanney/ Annenberg Media)
Patients receive dental and vision screenings (Brenna Devanney/ Annenberg Media)

The majority of dental and vision screenings take place inside trailers that look just like a regular doctor’s office. 

Buddhist Tzu Chi Medical Foundation provides all of the trailers for the clinic, as well as the dental chairs and eye examination equipment. William Neh, CEO of Tzu Chi, said many of the patients he sees who do have healthcare are still not able to receive treatments in a regular doctor’s office.

“Although Obamacare has given people a lot of insurance, you still have hundreds of millions of people in L.A. without medical insurance,” said Neh. “Even if they have affordable health care coverage, dental and vision are still not covered.” 

While clinics in the past did not focus as heavily on dental and vision treatments, this year’s clinic increased the number of services geared to improving patients’ vision and oral hygiene.

The clinic also provided free HIV and STD testing.

“It’s a great opportunity for those that don’t have insurance and need help,” said Robert Rummel, a clinic patient. “There’s a lot more here besides the vision and dental.”

While many people come for health care services, others come for health education. 

Care Harbor instructs patients on how to avoid developing diabetes and provides them with information on cancer prevention. 

For people who don’t have access to other health educational resources, Care Harbor wants to service those needs.

“Without money or insurance, you can’t do a lot,” said Rummell. 

“This is really helpful. It’s a good thing to do.” 

Health Care statistics (Brenna Devanney/Annenberg Media)
Health Care statistics (Brenna Devanney/Annenberg Media)

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