People who may have limited access to health care or can't afford it can get free health and dental care this weekend as Seattle's KeyArena is converted into a volunteer medical center.

The Seattle Center, Seattle-King County Public Health, and over 100 partner organizations are joining together to provide people in need with free medical, dental and vision services, Thursday through Sunday.

“We have a lot of people in the greater Puget Sound area that, for a lot of reasons, have great difficulty accessing the dental system, and medical and vision for that matter,” Dental Director Jeff Parrish said. “This is a place where we try to bring them into the system and get them handed off to our community health clinics where they can receive continuing care.

“We can’t provide a great deal of care for an individual here. We provide a ton of care for a lot of people,” Parrish added.

The four-day event brings out thousands of volunteers and provides nearly $4 million in health care services to more than 4,000 people. Last year, some 4,000 volunteers helped out nearly 4,500 patients.

“And everybody is doing it because we recognize the problems and we want to be part of a solution, not just continue to complain about the problems,” Parrish said.

Medical services include both general physical exams and a lot of specialty work.

“That might be mammograms, or X-Rays, blood tests, diagnostic tests, that are hard for them to get. There’s physical therapy, there’s acupuncture, and of course, there’s vision as well," said Meredith Li-Vollmer of Seattle-King County Public Health said.

Parrish said most of the dental care provided is the emergency type.

“We do fillings, extract teeth. Some people who might need a root canal can get that done," Parrish said.

The patient waiting area opens at 12:30 a.m. each day. Admission tickets are distributed starting at 5 a.m., and patient admissions and registration begin at 6:30 a.m.

“The people who come as our patients are extremely grateful for what happens here and a simple hug, a big smile, a thank you, keeps these people (volunteers) coming back year after year,” Parrish said.

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