Logistics of RAM: Organizers getting ready for 100,000th patient this weekend

Mike Still • Jun 24, 2019 at 9:27 AM

 WISE — After 20 years, the Remote Area Medical event in Wise is about to reach a milestone.

Teresa Tyson, director of the Health Wagon, which has coordinated the free clinic with RAM since 1999, said the 100,000th patient will be treated during this year’s event at the Wise County Fairgrounds.

During the last two decades, the U.S. has seen passage of the Affordable Health Care Act. Virginia legislators passed Medicaid expansion in May 2018, yet people keep coming to RAM.

This year, Tyson said, patients attending the event Friday through Sunday, June 28-30, will see three full days of medical, dental and diagnostic services. 

The clinic parking lot at the fairgrounds will open no later than midnight on the first night of the event. Ticket distribution will begin around 3 a.m., and patients will be served in numerical order according to their ticket number when RAM opens the gates at 6 a.m. Proof of income is not required.

RAM founder Stan Brock made his final visit to the Wise clinic in 2018 before his death that October. Volunteers and organizers will hold a 20th anniversary event at the fairgrounds at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, during which RAM will hold a flyover with the DC-3 transport Brock often flew into Lonesome Pine Airport during previous clinics.

Longtime partners the Lions Club of Virginia, the Virginia Department of Health’s Lenowisco Health District, Kiwanis, Wise Fair Committee, the University of Virginia Health System, UVa-Wise and MEOC Transit join others including the Appalachian College of Pharmacy, Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity, Junction Center, Ballad Health and other organizations and groups for this year’s clinic.

Dental care has been a high-demand service since the first clinic was held at Lonesome Pine Airport in 1999.While patients will be able to get cleanings, fillings, extractions and denture repairs and realignments this year, Tyson said new dentures will not be available at this year’s clinic.

Until 2018, the Virginia Dental Foundation has operated its Mission of Mercy clinic in conjunction with the RAM event. The MOM event operated at UVa-Wise’s David Prior Convocation Center during last year’s RAM and will hold its clinic July 12-13.

“We see this as a blessing because patients will be able to get dental care at two times this summer,” Tyson said.

Eye care services will include exams, glaucoma testing, diabetes retinopathy screenings and prescription glasses. Persons seeking new eyeglasses can speed up the process by bringing their current prescription from within the last year to avoid the exam. If the patient volume is too high, glasses may not be available to everyone.

The Philips Foundation will also sponsor a kids tent. Aetna will provide boxed meals for patients, and CVS Pharmacy will distribute free packs of hygiene items.

Medical services available this year include specialist exams, EKGs, ultrasounds, osteopathic and chiropractic services, diabetes screening and education, breathing tests, blood work and cholesterol tests.

Diagnostic testing services include chest X-rays, Pap smears, mammograms, colonoscopies, echocardiograms, ultrasounds, skin biopsies/surgeries and gynecological exams. Mental health and substance use disorder counseling services will be provided on site.

The three-day clinic is a tobacco-free event, and persons planning to have lab work done are asked not to eat or drink after midnight before coming to the clinic. No pets, other than service animals, are allowed in the clinic.

Persons or groups wanting to volunteer can register online at volunteer.ramusa.org or call (865) 579-1530. Anyone wishing to make donations or volunteer food can contact the Health Wagon at (276) 328-8850.

Transportation to RAM Wise Expedition can be arranged by calling:

— MEOC Transit at (888) 877-6748 or (276) 523-7433

— Four County Transit at (888) 656-2272 or (276) 963-1486

Tyson said people planning on taking transit services to RAM should call MEOC or Four County as early as possible to schedule rides.

For more information on the RAM Wise Expedition, call (276) 328-8850.

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