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RAM, Oak Ridge free clinic on a mission to overcome healthcare crisis

Remote Area Medical joined Oak Ridge Free Medical Clinic to help people that need medical assistance.
Credit: Chrissa Loukas
RAM eye doctor examines patient in Oak Ridge.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Remote Area Medical joined forces with the Oak Ridge Free Medical Clinic to help people who need medical care. 

On Saturday, RAM brought free medical, dental and vision services to Oak Ridge and the surrounding areas. For many people, this is the only place they can afford to see a doctor.

"I've talked to people that have driven 70, 90, 100 and some plus miles to come here because they cannot get assistance in their own state," Sandra Davis, a RAM patient and volunteer, said.  

Davis has a GI medical condition where her teeth need work but paying for them is a struggle even with insurance. 

"You cannot find [help] if you're on Medicaid or Medicare or any of those," Davis said. "Even if you can do that, you can find a dentist that will take it."

RAM and Oak Ridge Free Clinic summed up their resources to help as many people as they can. 

"We're here to bridge the gap for those underserved in the population," Brad Hutchins, RAM clinic coordinator, said. 

A doctor from UT said since the COVID pandemic, healthcare has been "magnified" and people's access to healthcare has narrowed. 

"It's been greatly magnified by the COVID pandemic... many people had to rely on telehealth, people lost insurance," Joe Bondranko, M.D Anesthesiologist, said. "Healthcare is very expensive in this country... And right now, people are having to make very critical decisions, whether they can provide food for their family." 

RAM said the community played a big part in pulling it all together. People helped through donations and by volunteering their time and services. 

For many, the clinic is the only place where they can get medical care. 

"My fear is that you're going to see more and more of these people," Davis said. 

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