You can’t do more good in less time than in this place.
That’s what one practitioner said at last year’s Seattle/King County Clinic at Seattle Center.
At this year's clinic, patient counts are up.
"We broke a patient service record yesterday, " said Deborah Doaust, Seattle Center Communiucations Director, of Thursday's clinic, with 1,049 patients seen. The clinic increased the number of tickets for Friday, and increases over last year's patient counts are expected for Saturday and Sunday.
For the third year, Seattle Center has become a giant, walk-in medical clinic where thousands of patients receive medical care. Thousands of medical professionals are donating medical, dental, vision and mental health services and screenings to anyone — regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay. No identification or proof of citizenship is required. Tickets will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis at Fisher Pavilion, adjacent to KeyArena.
The entire KeyArena complex and three other Seattle Center buildings are transformed into a maze of treatment areas, dental stations, eye-exam rooms and physical therapy spaces. KeyArena luxury serve as private exam rooms for doctors — conveniently, they each have their own restroom. Thousands of pieces of medical equipment will be assembled — X-ray machines, ultrasound equipment, exam lights and dental chairs — along with a complete blood lab.
The Seattle Center Foundation, which coordinates the volunteer-driven clinic, has a goal of providing over $3.5 million of services to over 4,000 patients. Patients will be treated by over a thousand doctors, dentists, nurses, medical technicians, counselors and social workers. The event also has the help of thousands of non-medical volunteers, and has over a hundred partner organizations. See the full list of clinic partners here.
Despite its name, the four marathon-days are filled with moments that are anything but clinical. The emotions and gratitude of care providers and recipients is palpable.
“It’s the best part of being a doctor,” Says Dr. Claudia Finkelstein, the clinic’s primary care director. “The glory of a medical encounter, which is person-to person, face-to-face — it’s just too bad that something like this is necessary.”
The complex operation is funded by the Seattle Center Foundation, with lots of partner and donor help. And Seattle Center is the perfect place to do it, says John Merner, director of Seattle Center productions.
“Medical professionals can fix a leg, but they don’t know how to stage a giant event. That’s what we’re good at.”
Merner notes how efficient and fast the care can be when volunteer medical professionals can walk into a fully-prepared operation without having to do the paperwork that accompanies most conventional healthcare delivery system.
“Seattle Center has a million moving parts to make this a first-class event,” says Dental Clinic Co-Director Dr. Jeffrey Parrish. “One part of KeyArena is a sea of dental chairs.”
Each of those stations is plumbed with water and electricity, with a dental area staffed by 700 doctors, hygienists, assistants and lab techs.
The clinic helps to address the giant gap in healthcare coverage that exists for those who are uninsured and underinsured. Last year, 31 percent of patients at the clinic reported not having insurance and an additional 47 percent said they couldn’t afford care or were unable to access services.
Many patients are seeking dental treatment to treat problems that have been exacerbated by a lack of routine dental cleanings, which many can’t afford. A lack of affordable, routine dental care is increasingly detrimental to overall health, says Dr. Parrish.
“We know more than ever the mouth is connected to the rest of the body, and the health of body to the health of the mouth.”
Fisher Pavilion opens early in the morning for shelter. Tickets are available at 5:00 a.m., with the clinic opening at 6:30 p.m. Patients can receive medical and dental care, or vision and medical care in the same day, or just one type of care. Patients will not be able to receive both dental and vision care in the same day.
Long lines are expected, so patients are asked to bring food, water and any medications they may need during the day. Bag checks will be available for large items. Translators will be onsite.
Stephen is a 25-year veteran of KCTS, producing a wide range of cultural and public affairs series, documentaries and arts programming. His credits include PIE, Something in the Water (PBS feature on Seattle’s indie music scene), the gala opening of Benaroya Hall, and documentaries on Asahel and Edward Curtis, Dan Sullivan and Doris Chase. Seattle-born, Hegg is a graduate of Whitworth University and is also an accomplished violinist and avid cyclist.More stories by Stephen Hegg