Free health clinic at Forum winds down

Dick Stoops manages patient flow outside the Forum.
Dick Stoops manages patient flow outside the Forum.
Brian Watt/KPCC

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The non-profit Remote Area Medical treated the last of thousands of patients at its temporary clinic in Inglewood. KPCC’s Brian Watt says the free clinic at the Forum is winding down.

Dick Stoops (calling numbers as baby cries): 271, 272.

Brian Watt: For eight days, 70-year-old retired army Lieutenant Colonel Dick Stoops has called the numbers of people who waited for free medical services at the Forum. On the clinic’s final day, fewer people gathered than during its first few days. But Stoops had to deliver bad news to some of them.

Stoops: If you are here without numbers, you will not be seen. I’ve been telling you that all day long.

Watt: Some patients waited more than a day for a turn to receive vision, dental, or other medical services. Stoops said the volunteer doctors, dentists, and nurses couldn’t provide them forever.

Stoops: These medical professionals that come out here, they really work their cans off, and I’ve heard cases where they’ll be pulling teeth until their hands cramp up and they just say “I can’t do anymore” and they’re just overwhelmed – one right after another over and over and over.

Watt: Inside the Forum, at the end of a row of dentists and hygienists, Mehrdad Makhani has been pulling teeth and filling cavities for five 12-hour days. The setting is different from that in his office near L.A.’s Miracle Mile:

Mehrdad Makhani: It’s just unbelievable what we see around here, people who need so much waiting days and days out until you get something done.

Watt: His patient of the moment was 24-year-old Jennifer Jenkins of Valencia. She waited 12 hours on Monday before she got a number to wait in line a second day. The part-time YMCA lifeguard is nearly seven months pregnant. Jenkins has five cavities, and she hasn’t seen a dentist in almost two years. She said that’s because she can’t afford dental insurance.

Jennifer Jenkins: And Medi-Cal just cut my dental, though they’re not supposed to cut dental for pregnant ladies, but they did, so I’m here.
Watt: And you’re gonna deal with these cavities, all five of them?
Jenkins: I don’t know about all five of them.
Makhani: Well, we’re gonna get at least three of them done today because we’ve got so many people waiting, we’ve seen already 3,000 people.

Watt: Makhani filled all five of Jenkins’ cavities. He said he’s no politician, but he did offer an opinion on the national debate over health care reform:

Makhani: This should not be here in the United States. That many doctors, that many educated people, that many professionals that we have that we are capable of serving every citizen of this country. This should not be happening.

Watt: Last year Makhani began to volunteer with Remote Area Medical. The non-profit will conduct its next free clinic on an Indian reservation in Utah.