After 20 years, RAM Clinic to leave Wise

Volunteers process patients amid livestock stalls at the RAM Clinic in Wise last month. (Mason Adams/ For the Virginia Mercury)

Remote Area Medical, which has provided free dental, medical, vision and veterinary care to people at a yearly clinic in Wise County for two decades, says starting next year it will pull out of the area to serve “other communities in need across the United States.”

Just last month, more than 1,000 people were treated at the clinic, a number that was down slightly from the year before. The change also comes as Virginia has expanded Medicaid eligibility to thousands of people here.

“RAM ensured residents of Wise County and nearby areas had access to the vital care they needed by working with The Health Wagon, Virginia Area Dental Foundation’s Mission of Mercy, and a variety of other community partners,” RAM said in a news release, citing other community organizations that provide health and dental care as having beefed up “infrastructure and capacity around eye, dental, and medical resources” in the area.

“Because of this, and because of RAM increasing its number of clinics in surrounding areas, the number of patients served at the Wise, Virginia clinic has declined year-to-year over the past several years,” the statement says.

“At the same time, RAM continues to receive dozens of clinic requests from communities across the country that, due to capacity, the organization is unable to fulfill.”

RAM CEO Jeff Eastman said the group’s work is more urgently needed elsewhere.

“We feel it is the best use of RAM’s time and resources to focus on areas that lack the excellent health care that The Health Wagon, Mission of Mercy, and other organizations are able to provide in Wise County,” he said.

Dr. Teresa Tyson, executive director of The Health Wagon, said the group plans to continue to offer free medical, dental and vision care to patients in Wise and the surrounding area annually.

“We are honored to have worked with RAM and all the incredible partners who have made the largest health outreach of its kind in the nation possible year after year,” she said.

RAM has gone from 13 mobile clinics to 61 last year, including more in Southwest Virginia, eastern Kentucky., and east Tennessee. Upcoming clinics are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis for Lee County, Virginia, on Sept. 21 and 22 and Gray, Tennessee on Nov. 1, 2, and 3.

Volunteers who have been volunteering at the Wise, Virginia clinic are invited to volunteer at other Remote Area Medical clinics. More information about RAM’s clinics and about volunteering at RAM’s clinics is available at ramusa.org.

Volunteers who are interested in continuing to volunteer with The Health Wagon at the 2020 health outreach event, Move Mountains Medical Mission, and future outreach events please contact 276-328-8850 as soon as possible to be added to the volunteer system.