KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Nearly 1,000 patients in Knoxville received a total of $603,000 worth of free dental, vision and medical care over the weekend thanks to volunteers.
On Friday, as cold weather began sweeping through East Tennessee, people waited for a chance to be seen by medical professionals. It was part of a free clinic organized by Remote Area Medical.
The free clinic started on Jan. 13 and was expected to last through Jan. 15, and offered free medical services. Patients also had the chance to receive either dental or vision services. The event is one of many that RAM holds across East Tennessee.
"They're very appreciative when they don't have to come (pay) out-of-pocket for this care," said one of the organizers of the RAM clinic. "People thank us, and it's rewarding."
Victor Cade stopped by the clinic on Friday, and he ended up having to undergo a procedure that could have cost hundreds of dollars. After a cavity progressed for a long amount of time, doctors at the clinic said they had to remove his upper-left wisdom tooth.
"If it's not treated, it can develop into an abscess. That would be one of the worst-case scenarios, where he develops an infection and this infection could spread to other places in his mouth, so we're trying to take care of that before it happens," said Dr. Cornell McCullom, who provided free services on Friday.
Cade said he waited 5 hours for a chance to sit in the examination chair.
"I feel a lot better than I did before," he said. "It was definitely worth it. You come out here, and you'd have probably paid thousands of dollars anywhere else, so it was really nice."
Organizers said the number of people who showed up to the clinic is an indication that many people in East Tennessee may not have health insurance.
"I don't think people really do understand the amount of people who don't have insurance. So, something like this is really big," said Cade. "I can eat again."
Brand Sands, a coordinator of the clinic, said that they are trying to address a problem that's not exclusive to Tennessee. He said that it's across the country.
"It's not just in Tennessee, it's everywhere," he said.
The clinic is running until Jan. 15 in the Jacob Building, in East Knoxville. It is located at 3301 E. Magnolia Avenue. RAM is also planning to host a free clinic in Oak Ridge starting Feb. 18.