Remote Area Medical (RAM) is gearing up to go back on the road. The COVID-19 pandemic sidelined 24 of RAM’s 2020 clinics that offer free medical, dental and vision care on a first come, first served basis. CEO Jeff Eastman said the organization hasn’t otherwise missed a beat adjusting to the new normal and figuring out a way to return to communities in need. RAM is heading to Idaho at the end of August.
“It’s going to look different from how we’ve conducted them in the past,” Eastman said. He explained that patients now will sign up for available slots ahead of time instead of showing up in the parking lot and getting an assigned number. They will then call in when they arrive for their appointment. Temperatures will be checked along with COVID symptom screening and everyone will be masked.
“Obviously, this impacts the number of patients that can be seen in one day, but we had to find a way to keep going while providing a safe environment for volunteers and the people we’re serving,” Eastman said, noting that RAM’s much loved and charismatic founder, the late Stan Brock, wanted to see 200 people through the door every hour. “Those days are gone for now; it will move at a slower pace.”
To prepare, RAM has held several mock clinics with volunteers. Exam spaces, dental chairs, eye exam stations, etc. are placed farther apart. Beyond their normal sanitation practices, dental stations, for example, will be fogged between patients and given 20 minutes to clear. RAM held a dental-only mini-clinic in the Bearden area two weeks ago. Another Knoxville mini-clinic with all services will be held this weekend, Aug. 1-2, at the Jacob Building in Chilhowee Park. It is by appointment only, and anyone interested is asked to call 865-500-8555 between 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. for available times.
Eastman said the clinic will serve two purposes, test run the new procedures and provide services to people who need them. “We’re always excited to help individuals in East Tennessee,” he said.
In addition to working on new protocols to get RAM’s primary mission back up and running, Eastman said he is very proud of the Telehealth connection now available through the website. “We had to find a way to connect patients with doctors when we couldn’t be there in person.”
RAM has also provided staff and support to 26 COVID-19 testing sites across the country. Eastman said they’ve also been working to get personal protective equipment (PPE) to area medical facilities, for example, coordinating with DENSO Manufacturing in Maryville to provide face shields to frontline providers.
“We’ve been very busy,” Eastman said. “The need is always there; it is ever growing. We once did a clinic 10 miles outside Washington, D.C., and the people we cared for were as far away from health care as the Amerindians of South America when Stan first started this thing,” alluding to Brock’s original goal for RAM to provide services to isolated communities in third world countries. “We can always use more awareness, more donations, more volunteers.”
For information about RAM, to donate, volunteer or inquire about services, check these links.
Beth Kinnane is a freelance writer and thoroughbred bloodstock agent.