GRAY, Tenn. (WJHL) – On a normal year at the Appalachian Fairgrounds, you would see hundreds of people lined up to receive free dental, vision and medical care at the annual Remote Area Medical clinic in Gray.
This year, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to force the need for social distancing, several big changes will make for a safer clinic on the weekend on Nov. 7.
The clinic draws huge crowds, which is why they moved to service by appointment only this year.
“The biggest reason for that is for precaution. We are controlling the amount of people coming into the building also the same with volunteers. Patients and volunteers alike will be screened with standard COVID questions, temperature checks,” said Chris Hall, COO of Remote Area Medical.
Patients receiving the free care will wait in their cars until they are called at their appointment time, all must wear a mask, and extra layers of protection are being put in place for dental procedures.
“All of the laboratories are closed in 10 x 10 tent and they are running negative air pressure with filtration which is scrubbing the air, cleaning up anything in the air that could spread,” said Hall.
Even with COVID restrictions, RAM leaders do not expect to serve less people. In fact, it could be more considering some healthcare services were shut down for months at the start of the pandemic.
“It created a backlog in the dental industry the same thing on the vision side. As people are getting less services during that time it creates more and more need for dental and vision services and the medical services that we are providing,” said Hall.
Financial strain is also causing more people to need these medical services than ever, as many families are experiencing loss of jobs and health insurance.
RAM reports for the upcoming clinic in Gray, appointments are already filling up fast.
As of Monday, Oct. 27 the services still available include dental cleanings, general medical exams, women’s health exams and audiology service.
The founder and life-long philanthropist who started RAM in Knoxville, Stan Brock, had a vision of access to healthcare for all people. He died in 2018, but his legacy lives on even through COVID-19.
“We had several events this year that were postponed or canceled. Those are communities that are not getting help that they truly need. I think he would be proud that we are overcoming all of the obstacles so that we can reach people that are in need,” said Hall.
RAM’s clinic at the Appalachian Fairgrounds in Gray, Tenn. is scheduled to happen November 7 and 8.
To make and appointment contact RAM by phone at 865-500-8555. RAM is encouraging anyone in need to make an appointment as soon as possible before all spots are taken.
All services are free of cost, no I.D. or insurance is required.