LA free clinic still in need of volunteers

A screen shot of a caregiver at a CareNowLA event, coming to the L.A. sports arena October 20-23, 2011.
A screen shot of a caregiver at a CareNowLA event, coming to the L.A. sports arena October 20-23, 2011.
Screenshot from CareNowLA

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Hundreds of people lined up Monday morning at the Los Angeles Sports Arena to pick up wristbands for a free healthcare clinic opening Thursday.

Organizers began distributing the wristbands at 1 p.m. and organizers say hundreds of people were lined up before the sun even came up Monday morning. Attendees were drinking coffee and sitting in lawn chairs, waiting to receive one of the 4,800 wristbands organizers plan on distributing.

Clinic staff gave out the free wristbands on a first come, first served basis until they were gone.

The nonprofit CareNow has joined L.A. County officials and health groups to sponsor the free clinic near USC. It begins Thursday and runs through Sunday, and every attendee will need a wristband to access the event.

Volunteer doctors and nurses will provide medical, dental and vision care to the uninsured and underinsured attendees at no charge. They will also refer patients that need extensive care to local clinics. Those who attend this week’s event can get immunizations and screenings, including mammograms and Pap smears.

Yolanda Sims of L.A. wore a bright green entry wristband Monday morning, and says she's coming back Thursday. "I gotta get things done. My glasses, my teeth, all of that," she said.

Retired Job Corps instructor Dorothy Banks of L.A. says she’s underinsured, with Medicare that doesn't cover her eye care or dental costs.

Unemployed construction worker Mark Swenston came by from the San Gabriel Valley and struggled as he explained the work he needed done on his teeth. “Oh God," he said, "they’re just basically gone — they told me a couple years ago I had to get them all pulled so I’ve lined up some kind of help trying to get bridge work and stuff.”

Riverside Community College student Telisa Craig says she needs more than just dental and vision treatment. “I’ve had ... some medical issues," she said.

Retired L.A. Unified band teacher Johnny Malone says his employer offered short-term benefits at group rates, but he says he couldn’t afford even that. “They were calling cheap plans like $350 a month. They were selling it as a benefit but it was still very expensive," he said.

Organizers are still looking for more volunteers to work this week's four-day clinic for full or half days.

L.A. County health officials aim to register more than half a million patients for free healthcare services by the time President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul takes effect in a couple years.