Thousands Expected at Free Health Clinic This Weekend

by Susan Fried

Alexandra and her cat Genghis Khan were waiting in the Cornish Playhouse vision area Thursday afternoon, the final stage before Alexandra would get her new glasses.  It had taken six hours to get to this point but she was glad she’d come.

She’d found out about the Seattle/King County Clinic at a family support meeting she’d attended the night before the clinic officially opened on February 13th.  Primarily subsisting on social security and disability payments, she thought that the clinic would be a “wonderful opportunity” to get a needed set of glasses.

free clinic 1
she waits to get her glasses during the annual Seattle/King County Clinic February 13th at Cornish Playhouse in the Seattle Center. The Clinic provides a variety of healthcare free to thousands of people during its 4 days of operating. (Photo: Susan Fried)

This was her first time attending the clinic which has ran almost every year since 2014.  She said that her experience had been a good one. “I was in the medical world for twenty five years and from what I’ve experienced, yes the waits are long, yes the lines are long but everybody is very professional and very nice.”

Alexandra utilizes Public Health – Seattle & King County for dental and other medical services. But optical care was unaffordable until coming to the clinic.

free clinic 5
Kelby a dental patient at the 2020 Seattle King County Clinic pets therapy dog Zelda, while her handler Connie looks on, February 13th in McCaw Hall. (photo: Susan Fried)

The Seattle/King County Clinic has been held at Seattle Center since 2014, with a break in 2019. Key Arena formerly served as the site of the event but its closure for remodeling necessitated last year’s pause and a move to McCaw Hall this year.

Since its inception the Clinic has provided 17 million dollars in direct services, served 20,000 patients and had over 17,000 people volunteer their time.

“This has been the best volunteer experience I’ve ever had” said Pamela Pasqually, who has volunteered every year the clinic has been opened. “I’m from the Puget Sound area and I come from Wenatchee. I love doing foot care and so this is an opportunity to do foot care with some really great nurses.”

free clinic 7a
Two volunteers assist patients in the Vision area of the Seattle/King County Clinic on February 13th at McCaw Hall in Seattle Center. The 4 day clinic will serve an estimated 4000 people. (Photo: Susan Fried)

She’s not alone in valuing her volunteer experience. Meredith Li-Vollmer has also volunteered every year since 2014. “I’ve been here since the beginning and I have to say when I first got involved I just didn’t comprehend the magnitude of the need in our community. And once you see it in person and you realize that there are so many people who struggle to get healthcare that they need, it just feels so important to me to be here and be involved and to lend what expertise I can, to make this all happen because we just have too many people that need this.”

The clinic offers a variety of services including physical exams, x-rays, mammograms, ultrasounds, select lab tests, immunizations, foot and wound care, dermatology, physical and occupational therapy, vision screening, prescription eyeglasses and dental fillings, extractions, X-rays, deep cleanings.  No one is required to have insurance, show their immigration status or income. The clinic emphasizes that patients will not be asked for ID or documentation of any kind. Patients do not need to live in the county or Washington State, all are welcome.

free clinic 4
People register for services at the 2020 Seattle/King County Clinic February 13th at McCaw Hall.  (photo: Susan Fried)

At a time when many people, even those with health insurance struggle to access healthcare the Seattle/King County Clinic continues to be a needed resource.

People still have Saturday February 15th and Sunday February 16th to utilize the clinic.

* Admission tickets distributed at 5:00 AM in Fisher Pavilion at Seattle Center
(Corner of 2nd Ave N & Thomas St) 

* No advance registration: FIRST-COME, FIRST-SERVED 

* Highest demand on Saturday & Sunday 

* Interpreters available 

* FREE parking Mercer St. Garage (650 3rd Ave N) 

Editor’s note: Alexandra asked to only be identified by her first name