I applaud Stan Brock and Remote Area Medical for bringing health care to those who can’t afford it. I’m appalled a program originally intended for isolated populations in third-world areas is necessary in America:
President Obama, I hope you’ll go see this for yourself – and drag the inhumane Blue Dogs along with you:
AMY GOODMAN: As debate continues in Washington over healthcare reform, thousands of Americans in neighboring Virginia are preparing to line up this weekend to receive free healthcare provided by a group called Remote Area Medical.
The charity was originally set up to provide doctors and medicine to isolated communities in the developing world, places like the Amazon jungle, where medical treatment is hard to come by. But the group quickly found itself having to set up in communities across the United States, where medical care is a right millions of Americans cannot afford.
Founded in 1985, Remote Area Medical is a non-profit, volunteer relief corps that provides healthcare free, dental care, eye care, veterinary services, and technical and educational assistance. It’s based in Knoxville, Tennessee, but the group frequently travels to set up relief centers, what’s called “expeditions,” across the country. This weekend they’ll be once again back in Wise County, Virginia.
Stan Brock is the founder of Remote Area Medical, joining us on the phone from Knoxville, Tennessee.
Stan, welcome to Democracy Now! Now, you are the Stan Brock of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, that show that was on Sunday nights for I don’t know how many years?
STAN BROCK: Yes, Sunday evenings, 7:00 p.m., as I recall, on NBC.
AMY GOODMAN: And what brought you from that, and what were you doing there, to founding Remote Area Medical?
STAN BROCK: Well, Remote Area Medical history goes back to many years when I lived in the Upper Amazon, and this is before Wild Kingdom. And I was living with a tribe of Native Americans called the Wapishana Indians, and we were—well, it was a very remote area on the northern border of Brazil in what used to be British Guiana. I had a nasty accident there with a wild horse. And while I was being pulled out from underneath the horse, one of the Wapishana said, “Well, the nearest doctor is twenty-six days on foot from here.”
It was about that time that I got the idea of bringing those doctors just a little bit closer. And that’s what we did many, many years later when I formed Remote Area Medical, but subsequently found that there were a lot of people like those Wapishanas here in the United States that didn’t have access to healthcare. And so, 64 percent of everything we do is now right here in America.
But, of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with our current system, right, Cons? You don’t see any problem with the fact that Americans are as cut off from proper health care as people living deep in the Amazonian jungle. You don’t feel one iota of shame that people have to be packed into animal stalls on a fair ground to get the medical attention they need:
WENDELL POTTER: I was very isolated, along with most insurance company executives who deal with numbers all the time—profit margins and medical loss ratios and earnings per share and how many millions of members you have, or things like that. It’s just—they’re just numbers. And I didn’t really associate that with real people as much as I should and as much as most insurance company executives should, until I went to visit my relatives in Tennessee.
And while I was there, I happened to learn about a healthcare expedition that was being held at a nearby town across the state line in Virginia. And I was intrigued, borrowed my dad’s car and drove up to Wise County to see what was going on there. And this expedition was being held at the Wise County fairgrounds, and it was being put on by this group called Remote Area Medical that got its start several years ago taking volunteer doctors from this country to remote villages in South America, where people really don’t have any access to medical care. The founder realized pretty soon, though, that the need in this country is very, very great, and he started holding similar expeditions in rural communities throughout the country. And this one was nearby. I decided to check it out.
I didn’t have any idea what to expect, but when I walked through the fairground gates, it was just absolutely overwhelming. What I saw were people who were lined up. It was raining that day. They were lined up in the rain by the hundreds, waiting to get care that was being donated by doctors and nurses and dentists and other caregivers, and they were being treated in animal stalls. Volunteers had come to disinfect the animal stalls. They also had set up tents. It looked like a MASH unit. It looked like this could have been something that was happening in a war-torn country, and war refugees were there to get their care. It was just unbelievable, and it just drove it home to me, maybe for the first time, that we were talking about real human beings and not just numbers.
Virginia’s not far from DC. Maybe Congress should take a field trip. I’d dearly love to see Cons defending the status quo on camera in front of those stalls. Maybe they can talk to us about rationing and the horrors of socialized medicine while they point out that everybody in America has access to health care – as long as they have a bus ticket and don’t mind waiting in line in the rain so doctors can treat them in livestock stalls. While they’re standing in the midst of something that looks like a war zone, they can boast about America having the best health care system in the world.
Somehow, though, I don’t think they’ll show up for that photo op. I can’t imagine why not.