National Association of Free Clinics Holds C.A.R.E. Event in New Orleans
On the 6th anniversary of hurricane Katrina, the city of New Orleans was visited by the National Association of Free Clinics (NAFC), which held a free medical clinic in the Ernest N. Moriel Convention Center. The C.A.R.E. (Communities Are Responding Everyday) Clinic opened its arms to about 1,000 uninsured people, providing primary medical care as well as access to medical resources and health education.
C.A.R.E. events are held across the United States
This was the third time a C.A.R.E. event was held in the city on the anniversary of Katrina. This year, the doors opened to sunny, humid weather without a hint of a hurricane, but a whirl of activity could be found in hall H of the convention center.
That’s where approximately 1,000 volunteers, from doctors and nurses to EKG techs, phlebotomists, nursing assistants, and nonmedical folks who helped with registration and guided patients through the well-planned maze of treatment stations and waiting areas, served the uninsured adults who came for medical assistance. Despite the enormous pressure associated with orchestrating such an event, patients were greeted at every level by friendly, caring, and enthused volunteers.
Rani G. Whitfield, MD, medical director of NAFC and a board certified family physician from Baton Rouge, was one of the physicians who volunteered. He and Nicole Lamoureux, executive director of NAFC, were interviewed by Ed Schultz of “The Ed Show,” which broadcast from the C.A.R.E. event.
Whitfield told the audience there were more men attending the free clinic this year than last year, when more of the attendees were women. He explained the difference in the demographics was “partly because they [the men] didn’t have jobs to go to.” He said he saw “lots of diabetes, lots of hypertension, lots of high cholesterol,” as well as “people who had not seen doctors in some years.”
Lamoureux commented on her interactions with many of the people who came to the free clinic, noting they were “sad, angry…told me they wanted a job, didn’t want to be uninsured,” and that “they got their healthcare taken care of today.” She also noted that five cases of cancer were discovered during the free clinic.
Hundreds of participants also got free prescriptions, courtesy of Rx Outreach, which donated $250,000 for the cause. Women were offered access to free mammograms from the Breast Cancer Survivors Foundation, while the Kidney TRUST provided free rapid-screening for kidney disease. Volunteer healthcare professionals took temperatures, blood pressure, and weight measurements, while levels of glucose, hemoglobin, and cholesterol were also checked.
Some patients were triaged for an EKG, free HIV testing, or an ultrasound through the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home’s Mobile Pregnancy Care Center, while others got an opportunity to speak with a psychiatrist. Everyone left with their test results in hand, as well as educational materials and information on other places in the community where they could get free or low-cost medical care.
The C.A.R.E. event in New Orleans is just one of many that have taken place across the country. Tacoma, Washington, hosted one on April 30, 2011, where about 1,500 uninsured people got assistance, while Charlotte, NC, saw more than 1,200 people on December 7, 2010. Kansas City, Washington, DC, Atlanta, and Hartford, Connecticut have also been the sites of NAFC/C.A.R.E. events.
The National Association of Free Clinics is the only nonprofit organization with the sole mission of attending to the issues and needs of the more than 1,200 free clinics in the United States. The NAFC is an advocate for the clinics, their volunteer healthcare professionals, and the patients the clinics serve.