Free health clinic in Seattle hopes to help thousands

Thousands of people will gather at the Seattle Center over the next few days at the largest medical clinic ever in King County.

SEATTLE -- Seattle's KeyArena has been transformed for the largest, free health clinic in Washington state. The plan is to offer medical, dental and vision care to anyone seeking treatment.

Organizers expect to help 4,000 people over the course of the weekend. Clinics like this one have been set up around the country and frequently draw people with various problems.

All of the manpower is donated by doctors, dentists, nurses and other health care professionals who give their time and expertise. More than 50 health, human service and civic organizations are pitching in, along with a group known as Remote Area Medical.

The dental treatment area is set up on the floor of KeyArena. There will be a waiting area, a dental triage section and a treatment section.

Dentists and hygienists will offer exams, cleanings, fillings and root canals. They plan to make dental crowns on site so patients can leave with the work completed.

Medical exams will also be offered at the clinic. Everything from mammograms to physicals will be offered.

Sophisticated digital x-ray equipment will help find hidden problems. Clinic Medical Director, Dr. Norman Beauchamp, says some individuals desperately need the help.

"We're very committed to provide good health care in our country, but so many people go without. We're just not reaching enough people," Beauchamp said.

Organizers believe about half who come will have insurance but just can't afford the co-payments that come along with treatment.

Dr. Beauchamp says it's a challenge, but they try to look at it in a positive way.

"There's a saying: It's better to light a candle than curse the darkness," said Beauchamp. "We're all frustrated with healthcare as it's moving to get better; it just seems we can all do something now."

The clinic runs through Sunday. Patients will be helped on a first-come, first-served basis. They will pass out tickets at 3:30 a.m. for spots in line; patient registration starts at 5:30 a.m. Organizers suggest coming to the event on Thursday or Friday to try and get ahead of the crowds.


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