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Wise County residents jam RAM Health Expedition

For the 4th year since this website has tracked the Remote Area Medical (RAM) folks, new records exposing the massive poverty have been broken every year and 2004 is no exception. Over 6000 "patient encounters," most who earn too much to qualify for government programs, but too little to live properly, crowd RAM seeking routine medical care.

This is the result after spending millions of tax dollars for "economic development" that fills the pockets of contractors, consultants, and the politically connected while thousands can't afford even routine medical care. The various burger dumps don't offer benefits to their part-time workers. Two-thirds of those on food stamps are employed but can't earn enough to live on, etc.

Once held at the Wise Airport, the event generated so much embarrassment for the local industrial park (mostly empty) located there they moved to the fairgrounds.

Below is the latest sorry news while local government hands out millions in corporate welfare. This is the results of over 35 years of government mismanagement in Appalachia. Webmaster


Saturday, July 24, 2004

WISE - It pays to get out of bed early to get a decent place in line at RAM at the Wise County Fairgrounds. Very early.

About 9:30 a.m. Friday, the first day of a three-day Remote Area Medical Health Expedition that runs through Sunday, organizers were already beginning to ponder if new arrivals might be urged to try again on Saturday.

Real early Saturday. "We're not turning anybody away. They're welcome to park and get in line," said Wise County RAM Mission Coordinator Tony Roberts. "But we're getting to a level (of patient numbers) now, because of such a mass turnout, that we might start encouraging people to come back in the morning."

Patient turnout by 9:30 a.m. Friday was somewhere over the 1,100 range, he said. RAM is a Knoxville-based medical service organization that provides free basic health care to areas of the country and abroad where people can't afford medical services, especially of the dental and vision variety. Founded by Stan Brock, co-host of Mutual of Omaha's "Wild Kingdom" television series of the 1960s and '70s, the ongoing RAM event at the fairgrounds is the fifth straight year in Wise County.

RAM's Wise County expedition is also the organization's largest in terms of volunteers and patients, setting RAM records every year for the past four years running. The current RAM event at the fairgrounds is on pace to at least match last year's record of 4,800 patients served by 1,000-plus volunteers.

Roberts said the first patient arrivals at this year's Wise County RAM showed up Thursday and camped out. There were about 150 people gathered by midnight Thursday. The parking lot began to really get active after 3 a.m. on Friday, he said, or about three hours before patient registration began.

The Lions Club of Virginia is a major player in the Wise County RAM event. Roberts, a Wise County businessman, is a former district president for the state Lions organization. This year more than 400 Lions Club members are volunteers at the fairgrounds. They hail from all over the state and country and range in specialties from medical services to whipping up the meals that feed all 1,000-plus volunteers.

"They call me the mission coordinator," Roberts said. "But that's just a title with a lot of work attached to it."

Organizing the annual RAM is a massive undertaking, he said, but all volunteers from physicians to nurses to parking attendants to food service workers get paid well. "This is one of the most rewarding jobs you can have," he said. "Knowing we're helping people who need it, doing something needed for others in a meaningful way. Well, that's just the greatest pay you can get and the most rewarding pay we ask for."

Dr. James M. Gordon of Chesapeake, an ophthalmologist, and Dr. Kenneth Arndt, an optometrist from Williamsburg who practices in Newport News, were organizing medicines and gear before joining the throng of physicians and other medical providers already hard at it since the crack of dawn.

"We feel we have been blessed living in this country, to be trained here and to practice here, and we want to give something back," said Gordon. "We're privileged to live in this country, and you have to give something back. So, we do," Arndt said.

Gordon said the pair participate in a RAM event on the eastern shore of Virginia "and it's nothing like this. This is definitely the biggest." Feeding the army of volunteers and even offering lunch to the thousands of patients who show up at the fairgrounds falls onto the capable shoulders Rich Evans of Richmond, another Lions Club RAM fan. He works as a data processor but many years ago ran a Ukrainian food booth at a Richmond food festival.

When he showed up at the county's first RAM event four years ago - it was then held at the Lonesome Pine Airport - he figured the food service section could use a hand. Roberts now refers to Evans as "our master chef."

"Oh, I like to cook," said Evans as his force of food service volunteers hustled around him in shockingly organized fashion. "It's as easy to me to cook for 700 as it is for seven," he said.

The Lions Club of Virginia gets donations of foodstuffs from all over Virginia and has on site at least one refrigerated semi-trailer and another for non-perishables, packed tight.

"I have a crew of people in here who probably work as hard as the doctors do," said Evans. "Come Sunday we'll be tired, yeah. But it's a good tired. We'll know we've done something for people. That's the biggest thing for us." Patient registration begins at 6 a.m.

Copyright 2004 Kingsport Times-News.


Wise County Remote Area Medical Health Expedition sets record

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

By STEPHEN IGO

WISE - Yet a new record for free basic health services was set during last weekend's Remote Area Medical (RAM) Health Expedition at the Wise County Fairgrounds, which ran Friday through Sunday. Total patient encounters during the three-day event was 6,026, far above last year's previous record of about 4,800. Setting records in Wise County is nothing new for Knoxville-based RAM, a charitable health services organization created by Stan Brock, co-host of Mutual of Omaha's "Wild Kingdom" television series that aired in the 1960s and '70s.

This is the fifth straight year for the RAM event in Wise County, and the fifth consecutive record for both Wise County and the Knoxville organization.

RAM brings together physicians, dentists, vision specialists, nurses and a host of other volunteers at various places across the United States and abroad to provide free basic medical services to people who can't afford them.

None approach the scale in numbers of volunteers and people served than in Wise County, and the weekend event at the fairgrounds was RAM's 400th since its inception. The huge success of the Wise County expedition is in large part due to the Lions Clubs of Virginia, which gathers and sends an army of medical providers to Southwest Virginia each year.

RAM keeps track of patient encounters. One patient may get dental work and an eye exam, and that would count as two encounters, so the total number of people would be less than the 6,026 encounters recorded for RAM 2004. Still, thousands of people were served.

"It just continues to set records here," said Teresa Gardner, a nurse practitioner with Bon Secours St. Mary's Health Wagon, one of the sponsors of Wise County RAM. "We had 55 or 60 dental chairs going. We really just expected to have it a couple of times (since the first event in 1998), but the numbers just continue to increase. I guess that's just a sad commentary on health care, when you think about it."

Dr. Susan Cantrell, director of the Lenowisco Health Department, said the regional need for basic health services for the unemployed, underemployed, uninsured or anyone else who otherwise can't afford them is reflected in Wise County's fifth consecutive record-breaking RAM. "From my perspective, this is one of those events where you look forward to the day you don't ever again need a RAM event," she said. "Until that day comes, though, RAM is wonderful in terms of the benefits to the patients. The need for better access to dental, vision and eyeglasses is clearly great and simply going unserved in our region." In financial terms, the total amount of free basic mental, dental and vision care was put at $946,326.

Gardner reported 3,398 general medical patient encounters, 187 eye exams only, 1,078 eye exams with free glasses, and 1,259 dental encounters. In that latter category there were 3,291 extractions, 932 fillings, 298 cleanings and just 72 dental exams with no further services deemed necessary.

Copyright 2004 Kingsport Times-News