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Free health clinic requires pre-registering

Each person seeking care next week at the L.A. Sports Arena must show up Sunday to get a color-coded wristband.

April 24, 2010|Molly Hennessy-Fiske

Patients seeking treatment next week at a massive free healthcare clinic at the Los Angeles Sports Arena must pre-register in person Sunday, organizers said.

The requirement marks a significant change from how patients were seen when the first clinic was held last year in Los Angeles. More than 6,300 people got free healthcare then, but scores more waited in line only to be turned away because of a shortage of medical volunteers.

Organizers hope a new color-coded wristband system will reduce both waits and the number of people turned away from the clinic, which runs from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to May 3.

"It's much more orderly, much more respectful of the patients," said Don Manelli, an organizer with Knoxville, Tenn.-based Remote Area Medical, which is mounting the clinic.

On Sunday, wristbands will be distributed for specific days, and a number will indicate the person's place in line for that day. About 1,200 will be handed out for each day.

Anyone seeking medical, dental or vision care must pre-register to receive a wristband, although parents and caregivers may obtain wristbands for children. Wristbands are not interchangeable or removable.

Manelli said organizers expect about 600 volunteers this time but could still use more, particularly dentists and optometrists.

"If you're a medical provider, you're so much closer to your art here — there's no insurance forms. You're just practicing medicine for people who need it," he said.

In addition, organizers are still seeking to recruit about 200 general volunteers, who help register patients, guide them through the clinic and prepare donated meals, he said.

Another change from last year's clinic is the addition of an electronic medical records system, donated by San Francisco-based Salesforce.com. Volunteers stationed at 35 laptops will enter patient records into the system and e-mail them to clinics and other healthcare providers for follow-up care. After the last clinic, some patients saw their records lost, had to be retested and could not find follow-up care, Manelli said.

"We really wanted to streamline that aspect of it," he said. "It's not going to be a sophisticated system like what they might have at Cedars-Sinai or the Mayo Clinic, but it's a huge leap forward from stacking papers."

molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

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