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Yesterday’s massive free health clinic at the CT Convention Center in Hartford had provided care to 700 uninsured people in just the first three hours. Almost 1,100 people signed up to volunteer. The clinic was run by the National Association of Free Clinics; CT has over a dozen free clinics providing care to the uninsured. I was an exam room runner – getting patients where they needed to be, getting supplies and answers to questions, and generally filling in. I spent a lot of time talking with patients – most were working, some at more than one job. Most had been uninsured for a long time and hadn’t seen a doctor in over a year. Unfortunately, I saw three people whose problems were so serious that ambulances needed to be called. Volunteers came from all walks of life; I met doctors, nurses, medical administrators, PAs, social workers, students, an investor, community organizers, retirees, some people who are unemployed, and a computer programmer. Services provided included physician services, seventeen specialties, lab tests, help with prescriptions, counseling, HIV testing, immunizations, dental and vision testing. Everyone was connected with follow up care, appropriate public and private medical and social programs at check out. The organization involved was mind-boggling and carried off with professionalism and good humor. It was a tremendous treat to be involved, a nice break from policy analysis and advocacy, but it was exhausting.
Ellen Andrews