MANATEE -- A nationally known clinic founded by the former co-host of the TV series "Wild Kingdom" will offer free prescription eyeglasses, free teeth cleaning, fillings and extractions and free overall medical care to 2,000 Manatee residents.
Stan Brock, who was co-host on the popular 1960s TV series Wild Kingdom, informed Manatee County commissioners Tuesday that the clinic he founded in 1985 called Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps is set to make its Florida debut Nov. 21-22 at Manatee Technical College, 6305 S.R. 70 E., Bradenton.
The clinic will serve patients on a first-come, first-served basis with no criteria for service and will begin at 6 a.m. both days, said Dr. Richard Conard. He and Manatee County resident Glen Gibellina are the driving forces behind bringing the organization known as RAM to Manatee County.
"All you have to do is show up and get a number," Conard said. "It's just that easy."
All of the hallways on the first floor of Manatee Technical College will be turned into a huge clinic, Conard said.
"There will be 100 dental stations," Conard said. "There will be 35 to 40 visual stations. There will be medical stations. There will be vehicles where they are making glasses outside. There will be vehicles for X-rays. There will be laboratories."
Volunteer organizations will offer public education to help get attendees involved in a more comprehensive continuum of care. Volunteer dentists will do cleaning, fillings and extractions, Conard said. The medical doctors will do physical exams and will have laboratory capability right there, he added.
Vouchers will be given so patients can go to Manatee Diagnostic Center and have free mammography breast exams, Conard said.
Patients can also get PAP smears.
"We will have primary care physicians, cardiologists pediatricians and OBGYNs for obstetrical and gynecological services there," Conard said. "From the vision standpoint, there will be opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists so that a person who needs glasses will have a prescription pair of glasses made for them while they are at the event."
Since the workers are volunteers, RAM works on donations, Brock said.
In Manatee County, two anonymous donors and a significant group of sponsors and partners gave $75,000 to fund the clinic event, Conard said.
"We have a budget of $87,000, so we still need more resources," Conard added.
The Manatee clinic comes at a time when Manatee County is struggling to figure out a way to fund health care for a large indigent population. Conard estimates more than 40 percent of Manatee County's population can benefits from such services.
A local fund that was used for indigent care has been exhausted and there is no firm plan to replace it.
But Conard thinks that the two-day clinic will have an impact on indigent care.
"First, the fine team of people who are coming together for the clinic and creating this alliance with RAM and with the area health care providers could act in an expanded role as participants on a health care board," Conard said. "Secondly, a clinic like this could have a half-million to a million-dollar impact in cost for people who may not hit the indigent rolls.
"Third, this clinic will identify people and get them into health care projects where they could get care going forward," he added.
Commissioners were unanimous in their support of the RAM clinic. They thanked Brock, who attended the meeting.
"This is something that, as a community, we all need to work together to make successful," said commission chairwoman Betsy Benac.
Conard said Manatee has such a large number of residents who need care that some people may be turned away.
"We could have 5-6,000 people showing up of which only about 2,000 can be seen," Conard said.
To handle that, RAM is working with Mickey Presha, president and chief executive officer of Manatee County Rural Health Services, who is willing to have his organization see the overflow on a one-time basis, Conard said.
Benac praised Gibellina for his persistence. It was Gibellina who actually attended RAM clinics out of state because he was fascinated with Brock's organization.
Gibellina took his findings to Conard and got Conard to attend a clinic himself.
Conard said he thought it was all too good to be true.
"I'll admit, when I first heard about this from Glen, that's what I thought," said commissioner Vanessa Baugh. "I thought, 'This is not going to happen.' But now I am really excited."
Medical professionals who would like to volunteer are asked to go to ramusa.org to sign up.
Those who wish to donate can send a check to Remote Area Medical, Box 1988, Palmetto, Fl. 34220.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.