Organizers estimated nearly $1 million free in health, dental and vision services were provided to the more than 1,600 patients who were seen at the RAM clinic at Manatee Technical College, 6305 S.R. 70 E. on Saturday and Sunday.
By the time organizers of this weekend’s RAM medical clinic met for a debriefing, figures were still being calculated but preliminary numbers were available. There were:
1,054 dental procedures performed.
467 pairs of eyeglasses made and distributed.
501 general medical exams performed.
84 pap smears performed.
150 mammograms performed.
Flu shots given to 312 adults and 50 children.
500 people who attened a nonsmoking class.
161 pediatric medical exams performed.
But it wasn’t just medical attention patients got at this weekend’s RAM clinic. For example, there were:
$12,000 worth of books were distributed.
3,700 meals served.
10,360 bottles of water distributed.
30 cases of fruit distributed.
2,500 hot dog food bags distributed.
500 bags handed out with health information.
“Most programs never had any food for the patient,” Conard said. “I was determined that we were not going to see someone come and leave hungry.”
Among the last handful of patients on Sunday who were getting dental work was 62-year-old Lidia Rios.
Despite her mouth still feeling asleep, Rios was feeling good, she said in Spanish. She had just had her cavities filled and her teeth cleaned.
“It had been so painful,” Rios said.
Rios, a Bradenton resident who came from Honduras three years ago, had been one of the last patients to get a number on Saturday, and also received a vision exam and new glasses. She was not able to get dental work Saturday, so she returned with Maria Cardenos.
Cardenos, of Bradenton, had not been able to get a ticket to be seen at the clinic Saturday, so she returned Sunday, said in Spanish. She brought along Rios, who is like a mother to her, she said.
While her husband took advantage of the medical care, Cardenos got new glasses.
“Mine were already broken, so I had needed them, but the ones I had been prescribed were $300,” Cardenos said. “That was too much.”
The clinic saw 800 patients on Saturday and had to turn people away, asking them to come back at 3 a.m. Sunday, when the ticket distribution would begin again. By 3:15 a.m., vice chairman Glen Gibellina said he had handed out all 400 tickets for Sunday.
The 400 tickets were limited to dental and vision services because of fewer volunteers in those areas Sunday. The clinic continued to take people who needed medical care until noon. Gibellina said at least 90 percent of those in the stream of cars that came in after he gave out that last ticket were needing vision or dental services.
“You gave them a ray of hope that we were going to be back next year, but more importantly had something to offer,” Gibellina said. “We were trying to get them in to at least get a physical, get checked for diabetes, a flu shot.”
RAM USA has committed to return next year, but Conard said the event will be held a week earlier. With school letting out for Thanksgiving break on Friday in Manatee County, many providers were unavailable this weekend because they are on vacation. Next year, RAM USA will return to MTC for three days from Nov. 11-13, 2016, Conrad said.
While he wouldn’t change any of the critical components, Conard said he thinks a veterinary component that other RAM clinics have offered should be considered in light of many of the difficulties Manatee County has experienced with its Animal Services Department recently.
“As preliminary numbers, we feel that we have really met a lot of the unmet needs in the community by the program,” Conard said. “My way of thinking is that we have so demonstrably put on the table that it’s time for us to take the discussion to another level …
“The turnout of the decision-makers at a school and county government level was very impressive.”
Recently, since Manatee Memorial Hospital’s contract to provide indigent health care expired — the first time in 30 years Manatee County hasn’t had such a contract with a local hospital — there has been a struggle to find a solution.
“I think we are in a good position to see the conversation go to a new level,” Conard said. “I think out of this will come some lessons.”
Plenty of help
Conard wasn’t the only one who had a good experience.
Not wanting to exclude anyone — with 740 volunteers who gave their time to make the clinic possible — Conard did single out significant partners Manatee Technical College, MCR Health Services, Walgreens, Manatee Diagnostics Center and the State College of Florida as going above and beyond by just stepping up to the challenge. By 4 p.m. Sunday, all the patients had gone home, and cleanup was well underway, with most of the medical equipment loaded onto trucks. Among those left helping was Doug Wagner, the director of MTC.
“The volunteers are really the heroes,” Wagner said.
For Wagner and the many students who volunteered, it was a lifetime experience. But it was the community and the patients that really benefited, he said.
He recalled helping one woman in the parking lot. “Her baby was crying and then she started crying,” Wagner recalled.
He told her it would be OK and that the baby would stop crying, he said.
“No,” Wagner said the woman told him. “I’m just so happy. I have been in pain for three years.”
She had finally been able to have the dental work she needed to alleviate her pain, he said.
“What a great tribute,” Wagner said with a look of amazement overpowering the exhaustion in his eyes.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.