Thousands get free medical care at event

September 26, 2009 8:24:55 PM PDT
It's an epidemic here in Texas and Harris County -- people without health insurance. On Saturday, the uninsured lined up to get their needs met.More than 2,000 people came to Reliant Center to see doctors for free. Many of the people we talked to can't afford health insurance, especially in the rough economy. Some say it shows the need for health care reform.

Doctors, nurses and volunteers arrived at around 7am to see patients in what is believed to be the largest free clinic ever held in the United States. The National Association of Free Clinics said it decided to hold this event in Houston because this is where it felt the need is the greatest.

"My foot was turned upside down," said patient Lillian Beverly.

Beverly has had trouble walking since she took a bad fall three months ago.

"I really don't have the money to keep going to doctors and doctors," she said.

Kevin Braggs is worried about his diabetes.

"I've been without insurance for six months," said Braggs.

And Vicki Robinson wants to keep her son's asthma under control, but she says it's difficult.

"My husband's lost his job. We've gone through our savings," said Robinson.

And nine-year-old Kempton knows it.

"We can't afford medicine," he said.

One out of every three adults in Harris County is now uninsured and Texas ranks the worst among the 50 states in healthcare coverage, according to the U.S. Census. The National Association of Free Clinics decided it was time to hold a massive free clinic at Houston's Reliant Center.

"A huge number of volunteers and there was a huge number of patients," said Nicole Lamoureux with the National Association of Free Clinics.

It was record-breaking event with an estimated 2,000 patients registered and 200 doctors, like pediatrician Jason Sanders, seeing them.

"It's made me feel excited to be able to help people out who haven't had an opportunity to see a doc in some time," said Dr. Sanders, who is with Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital.

Many there told Eyewitness News this is the first time they've relied on a little charity. But in tough times they are grateful for it.

"Any other time I wouldn't have come, but I don't have no other choice," said Beverly.

All patients who saw a doctor Saturday will get information about a free clinic near their home where they can go for follow-up care. There are at least eight here in the Houston area and these days they are busier than ever.

In 2008, the National Association of Free Clinics says its doctors saw 4 million patients. This year, it's expecting to see twice that number because of the bad economy.

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