Occupy Eugene clinic provides free medical aid to those who can’t afford it
Occupy Eugene organized a free medical clinic held Sunday afternoon, providing on-the-spot care by volunteer doctors at the promenade of the Eugene Federal Building.@@http://www.gsa.gov/portal/ext/html/site/hb/category/25431/actionParameter/exploreByBuilding/buildingId/1144@@
The group has arranged roughly a dozen such clinics since October and plans to continue them, announcing times, locations and volunteer needs through its website.
The majority of patients were seen by one of two doctors: David Knowlton, M.D.@@omg he looks like a super creep http://www.mckenziefamilypractice.com/doctors/david_knowlton_md.html@@ and Peter Howison, M.D.@@http://occupyeugenemedia.org/@@
Knowlton’s first patient was Weston, a 21-year-old Eugenean and a walking exemplification of the Occupy movement’s local manifestation.
He has no state ID, no birth certificate and no social security card.
“I actually prefer it this way. I don’t get involved with all this corporate (business). I’ll find a job by word of mouth. I’ll be an apprentice. Socialism takes time and it’s hard, but it’s worth it,” Weston said.
But it’s also difficult to get medical treatment when you’re off the grid.
Weston claims to be one of 40 initial recruits at the start of the Occupy Eugene movement who were assigned to distribute flyers on campus prior to the first march.
Knowlton saw several other patients throughout his shift, including University students — none of whom chose to comment.
Knowlton, a doctor at McKenzie Family Practice in Eugene, began his career working on Washington’s Makah Indian reservation.@@http://www.makah.com/@@
“Before I even went to medical school, I wanted to do need-based rural medicine. I wanted to give back to a decimated culture,” Knowlton said.
“When I heard about the Occupy thing, it was still just a march in New York City, but then it kept on happening. When it came here, I checked it out. I wanted to get involved.”
On Oct. 16th, 2011, Knowlton went to the group’s temporary headquarters and said, “what can I do?” He then signed up for a shift in their newly erected medical tent.
“The system is so broken that it’s a caricature of its own self. It’s in a crippled state of disrepair,” Knowlton said. “I hope this will raise consciousness. People will wonder why it’s only us out there doing this.”
In the midst of volunteers still laying out sanitary equipment and erecting the tent poles, a familiar voice could be overheard — that of Marc Time, guest host of KWVA’s “The Sunday Morning Hangover” program@@http://sundaymorninghangover.blogspot.com/@@. Time, who is both unemployed and uninsured, came in search of care relating to a recent early morning mishap.
“A couple of weeks ago I forgot to put the garbage out, and then I suddenly heard the truck coming down the street. I ran outside in my bare feet to drop it in the bin and I stepped on something sharp,” Time said.
He would have paid about $150 to be seen at his local doctor in Junction City, which for him would be worth two weeks of groceries, four tanks of gas or a whole week of unemployment benefits.
Fortunately for Time, Dr. Jerry Zook, a retired podiatrist, @@he must have retired before the Internet cuz I can’t find him@@was there to clean and protect the poorly healing cut in the arch of his foot, free of charge.
An hour or so into the event, warm meals arrived in crates and were supplied to patients, having been prepared beforehand by the local chapter of “Food Not Bombs,” a national hunger-fighting charity.@@http://www.foodnotbombs.net/@@
At 2 p.m., Dr. Howison came to relieve Dr. Knowlton. Howison, like Knowlton, expressed his concerns over the event merely treating the symptoms of society, and not the true ailment.
“I’m interested in a healthcare system that makes sense — that insures everybody, even the homeless,” Howison said. “We can’t fill the need. It’s unlimited. There are 50 million Americans without insurance. We shouldn’t be the only ones here. The city, the county, the state and the federal government just aren’t willing to take care of this problem.”
Howison, whose practice is based in Florence, was joined by his wife, Lina, who stood on hand as a Spanish interpreter.
According to Howison, the clinic, though helpful, remains limited. They cannot send for lab tests and perform advanced diagnoses, but they can easily investigate things like respiratory and dermatological conditions, which seem to be common among those living without adequate shelter.
In addition to inciting the overarching idea of a comprehensive street medicine program, Howison said he is “volunteering because it seems like the right thing to do.”