Saturday, the Dallas Convention Center Will Be the "World's Largest Doctor's Office"

Since the Affordable Care Act became effective, nearly a million previously uninsured Texans have acquired health insurance. That's good, but despite the gains, Texas still has the highest rate of uninsured residents in the country and the highest raw number of uninsured residents. Gains in Texas have come at a slower rate than many other states, primarily because of state government's refusal to accept the expansion of Medicaid prescribed by Obamacare. For those without insurance, attaining even the most basic level of care can be difficult, so Dr. Bobby Kapur and the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics are turning the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center downtown into what Kapur calls the "world's largest doctor's office" on Saturday.

"We go into a city, we take over a city, and, essentially, for the week before, we'll set up appointments," Kapur says. "We have about 50 healthcare providers — physicians, nurse practitioners and physicians assistants — and we do everything from basic testing — diabetes testing, cholesterol testing and we have mammograms available — and we see patients for chronic conditions — diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma," Kapur says.

The patients who come to the clinic usually haven't seen a doctor in awhile — they might have lost insurance coverage or never had it in the first place, Kapur says — but know they have a condition that needs treatment. They can come in, get screened, get basic medical care and walk out of the convention center with three months' worth of any prescriptions that they're on.

The last time Dallas hosted one of the free clinics put on by the Texas chapter of the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics in 2012, about 1,200 people got treatment. Saturday, Kapur said he expects the 50 practitioners at the convention center will see at least 1,000 people. They'll do so with the help of almost 1,000 volunteers, Kapur says, who'll make the whole thing run smoothly.

Kapur says that the clinic, more than anything, is about what happens after those being seen leave the convention center.

"For me personally, it's not about just seeing patients for one day. For me it's about actually showing our patients that there is an avenue out there for them to get healthcare. As they're leaving, they get a wellness check and we try to direct them to the free clinic that's in their neighborhood based on zip code.

"People may not even know what's available to them. A lot of the local clinics may be faith-based. This is apolitical. There's no religious denomination or anything involved. The focus is just on health care and there's going to be enormous resources [available at the free clinic]," Kapur says.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young

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