A total of 6,192 people received in excess of $10 million in free Adventist healthcare at a San Antonio stadium, organizers said Friday as they started looking toward the next free mega clinic in the U.S. state of Washington this summer.
Torrential rain on Friday morning did not stop more than 1,700 doctors, dentists, and other volunteers from seeing hundreds more patients as they wrapped up three days of work at the Alamodome stadium.
“The event was a tremendous success,” Costin Jordache, a spokesman for the Your Best Pathway to Health event, told the Adventist Review.
“1,700 Seventh-day Adventist Christians from around North America have just saturated the city of San Antonio with the tangible love of Christ, and have brought hope and healing to over 6,000 of the city’s residents,” Jordache said. “We couldn’t be more thrilled.”
The clinic sought to introduce San Antonio residents to the Seventh-day Adventist Church ahead of a major church business meeting, the General Conference session, which will be held in the same stadium in July.
It drew significant local media coverage and an outpouring of warm words from grateful patients and San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor.
“Great visit yesterday at Your Best Pathway to Health event currently being held at the Alamodome,” Taylor tweeted a couple hours before the clinic closed on Friday afternoon.
During a tour Thursday, Taylor visited with volunteers and spoke with patients standing in a long line snaking around the building.
“I want to thank the Seventh-day Adventist Church for bringing this wonderful resource to our community,” she said in an interview videotaped by the North American Division, a co-organizer of the event. “You can see how many people are here to take advantage of the free healthcare.
Watch San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor tour the free clinic in the Alamodome on Thursday, April 9.
People started lining up at noon Tuesday, well before the free clinic opened at 7 a.m. Wednesday, and hundreds waited outside on subsequent nights.
The mayor had asked Your Best Pathway to Health — the main organizer and a service of Adventist-Laymen’s Services & Industries, or ASI — to treat at least 6,000 people in exchange for use of the stadium at no cost.
Volunteers exceeded expectations by seeing 2,617 patients by the time the doors closed at 4 p.m. the first day. A total of 2,025 patients were treated the second day, and 1,550 the third day, when the clinic operated on a shorter schedule and closed at 2 p.m., said Jordache, vice president of communication for the Adventist Church’s Central California Conference.
Surgeons performed a total of 360 surgeries — 300 simpler ones at the Alamodome, and 60 more complex ones at the Central Texas Medical Center, a part of Adventist Health System, a co-sponsor of the event, Jordache said.
Heavy rainfall failed to upset the last day of the clinic, he said. Alamodome management invited the hundreds of people waiting outside to file indoors and enter winding, roped-off lines set up around the stadium.
“We very much appreciated that the Alamodome would organize that,” he said.
Jordache said it would take several days to tally the exact value of the healthcare provided in San Antonio.
Your Best Pathway to Health is now gearing up for its third free clinic, a two-day event in Spokane, Washington. The Aug. 3-4 clinic will coincide with an annual ASI convention that will also be held in the city of 200,000 people. Organizers have not determined yet how many people might be served in Spokane.
The first free clinic provided nearly 3,000 people with $5.2 million in free healthcare in San Francisco and Oakland, California, in April 2014.
Staging the enormous event in San Antonio passed without hitch, although several people wrote to the Adventist Review to express frustration about the long lines and perceived lapses in communication.
“The event was really unfair to people waiting at the dental line,” one person wrote Friday in response to an Adventist Review article about the event. “People wait[ed] hours only to [be] told slots were take[n] up by the other line.”
The waiting lines were divided into two: one for dental and the other for medical care. The dental line was significantly longer on all three days.
“Waited in line from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m.,” another person wrote. “It took them a while to inform everyone that they weren't taking any more patients. … Maybe next year.”
Jordache said volunteers did their best to coordinate the flow of thousands of people and alert those at the end of the lines well before closing time each day that they weren’t likely to receive treatment. Volunteers told those unlikely to get their desired treatment about the services with shorter waiting lists and encouraged people to consider switching treatments.
Many patients, however, were filled with gratitude, including a 60-year-old woman who wrote to the Adventist Review to offer “a huge thank you.”
“I needed health care and glasses, and am extremely happy and grateful with the care I received,” said the woman, who gave only her first name, Celia.
“I am age 60, have no health insurance & live on very low income now,” she wrote. “I have searched in vain for low cost health care in the area but was unable to find any. Just want you to know your kindness and help is very much appreciated.”