Goldenvoice sponsors free medical clinic in Indio
Coachella music festival promoter Goldenvoice helps over 400 in Coachella Valley
Apr 4, 2013
Written by Victoria Pelham
The Desert Sun
INDIO — Ana Solis, 59, of Cathedral City showed up alone at 3 a.m. Thursday at the Riverside County Fairgrounds. Her mouth had been in desperate pain. Uninsured and with little money to spare, she had not visited a doctor or dentist for three years.
She had several teeth extracted. Sitting and waiting to be checked out, she covered her mouth and said the treatments she received would change how she lives her life.
“It was definitely worth it,” she said in Spanish.
More than 400 people received free medical care Thursday on the opening day of a four-day clinic sponsored by Goldenvoice, the company behind the Coachella Valley and Stagecoach music festivals, and organized by relief organization Remote Area Medical. Some camped out as early as 8 p.m. Wednesday and slept in their cars overnight to receive treatment.
Held in partnership with Flying Doctors and the California Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, the clinic offered a range of health care, including basic blood pressure, diabetes and HIV tests, as well as dental services on 74 dental chairs, appointments with ophthalmologists and on-site prescriptions for glasses with same-day pickup. Massage therapy, chiropractors and acupuncture also were available.
In addition to medical services, FIND Food Bank taught nutrition, Desert AIDS Project discussed HIV and booths existed to inform people about local clinics for low-income valley residents.
“There’s a lot of need,” said Diane Van Santen, a clinic volunteer affiliated with Goldenvoice. “It’s very overwhelming the need; it’s very touching.”
The company became involved when its owners saw a similar clinic in another city and decided they wanted to give back to the Coachella Valley, where its popular festivals take place, said Pamela Congdon, president of Remote Area Medical California.
Congdon said more than 300 people had already been assigned spots by 4:30 a.m. The clinic started handing out wristbands to receive treatment at 3:30 a.m.
By 10 a.m. Thursday, about 380 patients had been admitted. The organization estimates the clinic will help about 3,000 people over its four days.
The valley suffers from a serious shortage of doctors, especially in places like Desert Hot Springs and the east valley where the clinic was held. The doctor-to-patient ratio is about 1 doctor per 9,000 patients in the region. The shortage is even greater with primary care physicians who can treat a broad range of basic services like the ones offered Thursday.
Many of the attendees are also uninsured or have limited insurance, making the access to care worse, Congdon said.
Stan Brock, director of operations for the RAM volunteers, said they were shorthanded on Thursday. He blamed its mid-week timing and doctors and dentists being unable to leave their practices. He also blamed laws that made it difficult for people to cross state lines to provide free care.
For example, there were only four eye doctors for 10 lanes of eye exam equipment.
“Bring them in from out of state if you can’t find enough of them here in California” he said.
Congdon also said they saw fewer people in general than they expected Thursday.
“Maybe we would see more people here if they had transportation to get them from the outlying areas,” Congdon said. “They don’t have transportation.”
One young girl watched her mother get her tooth pulled and then agreed to have one of her own teeth pulled. She high-fived the doctors and Congdon. She said these moments, when people showed their gratitude, exemplified what the clinic meant.
She said that usually 85 percent of people who visi*t such clinics need dental and vision treatments since they are not covered under most insurance plans. But she added that the clinic saw more seeking medical treatment than usual for RAM clinics.
Stacia Anguiano of Indio said the clinic was the best thing for her. Suffering from cancer, with broken glasses and with only limited insurance provided through Riverside County, she came to the clinic with a real need.
“I’m just so happy that this is provided for all of us,” she said.
Chantelle Daizadeh, a dental volunteer with Remote Area Medical, said she had seen patients who had never had a teeth cleaning before Thursday, some of whom walked around with serious tooth pain.
“The need is definitely out there, obviously, as you can see today,” Daizadeh said. “The need is the sad part; we wish there was not a need.”
She said they would do as much as they possibly could to fix the problem and, if possible, she would return next year.
Dennis Chung, 42, drove in from Los Angeles to take his mother, Sang, to receive dental care. She had lost her dental coverage under Medi-Cal three years ago and had not visited a dentist since. But in that time, she was also taking heavy medication for her autoimmune disease that had weakened her bones and complicated her dental condition.
“The doctor said that it’s critical that the tooth needs be taken care of due to her health issues,” Chung said.
His mother has had severe pain in her mouth, and the dentists would need to start first with a cleaning and then move on to dealing with several teeth that were having problems, he said.
Julissa Gonzalez, 45, of Cathedral City said insurance is expensive enough in this country, let alone adding dental insurance. Her fillings broke, so she arrived at the clinic at 2 a.m. to have them fixed.
She said she was there to take advantage of the opportunity and was very thankful to the people who took the trouble to make it happen.
“We are people who really need this,” Gonzalez said in Spanish.
Xavier Olivas and Ana Gilar drove in from Yucca Valley late Wednesday. Gilar had been suffering from severe pain on one side of her leg and, with little insurance, it had been worrying her since she could not have it checked out. She was diagnosed with a sciatic nerve problem.
Olivas, who lost his insurance in 2010 when he was laid off and hadn’t seen a doctor since, received a checkup and was diagnosed with prediabetes.
The pair said they just felt so much happier knowing what was going on with their health.
“It is worth it because you have peace of mind,” Gilar said.