The Remote Area Medical Expedition (RAM) made its annual visit to Wise, Virginia over three days last weekend. Thousands of people from throughout the region lined up early, some camping out overnight to get in line for a range of free health services offered by RAM volunteers. The Remote Area Medical Relief Corps is a not for profit group dedicated to providing free medical, dental, and vision care to people in remote areas of the world, since 1999 their service area has included south west Virginia. At this years RAM health fair at the Wise County Fairgrounds, close to 10,000 people turned out to receive services.
All of the personnel working at the RAM health fair were volunteers, including the medical and dental professionals. Many of the non medical volunteers come from Lions clubs from all parts of Virginia, some of whom come to Wise every year to help with RAM. And while many of the patients who come don’t have insurance, some do have coverage that simply doesn’t cover things like dental work, or their coverage has high co-pays that keep them from being able to get eye exams, or regular checkups.
The large turn out highlights the need for health-care reform in the United States, a need that was put in the national spotlight last week when Presidential candidate, John Edwards visited the site of the RAM Expedition to talk with the volunteers, community organizers, and others about finding solutions to the problem of taking care of the uninsured and under-insured, especially those in areas with high poverty rates.
Those who spoke with Edwards, and many others who were a part of the health fair had thoughts on possible solutions including Bobby Parker, the Public Information Officer of the Virginia Health Department -”I think what i illustrates is a need for some permanent services, permanent facilities and clinics, there’s clearly a need”.
As long as the need exists the RAM Expedition will continue to come to Wise each year. Ultimately, what the RAM health fair highlights each year is that there is a huge need for better access to affordable medical and dental insurance, and quality health-care for everyone. Despite long lines and even a few rain showers, the people who came out were in good spirits, all expressed their gratitude for the volunteers and the care they received. For the volunteers – the smiles and hugs they get are the big payoff.
Correspondent Josh Noah with Edith and Esilone Hamilton