By Sam Le
Northwest Asian Weekly
After serving over 4,000 patients and providing just over $3.7 million in dental, vision, and medical care in 2017, the Seattle/King County Clinic hosted at the Seattle Center aimed to continue serving the most vulnerable and underserved communities from Sept. 20 – 23. The Clinic, now in its fourth year, started with the goal of providing patients the highest grade of service at no cost and has been successful through the generosity and commitment of sponsors and thousands of volunteers. The overall impact of the clinic goes beyond the sheer numbers of patients, volunteers, or dollars.
“One of the key parts of the clinic is to educate the patients, not just to provide medical service,” shared Gracielle, a volunteer at the clinic for the past three years. The message of ensuring that the patients learn about health care and gain health literacy was apparent throughout the clinic. With an emphasis on education, stigmas on using medical services from communities and cultures can be addressed. When asked about how the clinic impacts the Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander communities, Gracielle stated it is significant.
“Especially being Filipino, I know how my family is sometimes skeptical about medical, dental, or don’t have much knowledge on health care. The clinic opens up a lot of opportunities for them to learn and connect with really important people.”
The clinic’s effort in recruiting volunteers and interpreters shined as there were over 30 languages accounted for to ensure that the patients can communicate with the providers and understand the necessary information.
Thao, a volunteer Vietnamese interpreter, said “I know that there will be a need for interpretation in the Vietnamese language, but even more for certified medical interpreters. There needs to be more community outreach to make sure more communities come out and use the services.” Thao hoped that there could be more opportunities for the patients to learn about and receive health care outside of the Seattle/King County Clinic.
With the continuing success of providing medical, dental, and vision services, the Clinic has increased the effort in providing other services for the patients.
“Many patients come in without knowing much or anything about health care and insurance. Their initial questions to us aren’t even about health care,” said Sara, the lead volunteer for the social work sector at the clinic. She said that housing, nutrition, employment all topics volunteers are asked about by patients.
“There are other issues, besides the sore tooth or ongoing headaches, the patients are worried about.”
Because of the time limitations of the clinic, many volunteers have made their own efforts in following up with patients on their status of continuing care.
The overall increased amount of interactions between the patients, providers, and other volunteers have been a key part of the clinic’s success.
“Often, these are the first times that patients are interacting with medical staff, especially for those who are immigrants and speak limited English,” shared Meredith, a lead organizer for the clinic’s communications. “One of the issues that have been addressed was the inclusion of other services, such as social workers, behavioral health, health care navigators, which shows how important all aspects of care are.”
With no requirements or even needing to show I.D. receive services, the clinic has taken steps to reducing barriers to healthcare access.
Emily, a University of Washington student volunteer, said “It was incredibly eye opening and heart warming to be able to assist the patients that not only traveled from far away, but also stood in line for hours in order to receive these services. They expressed how in awe they were of the large scale of this project and also how grateful they were to have everything taken care of, completely free, no questions asked.”
Sam Le can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.