EUGENE, Ore. -- Every Sunday from noon to 4pm, volunteers gather at their “mobile clinic” to make a difference, and offer free healthcare in downtown Eugene, Ore. What started as a temporary first aid tent along the Occupy Eugene movement in October 2011 became the Occupy Medical clinic in February 2012.
Sue Sieralupe, a certified herbalist, was one of the founders of Occupy Medical. She has been the clinic manager since it started.
“What we are trying to do is show Oregonians what it looks like to have single-payer,” she says, a system in which the government pays for all health care costs. “It doesn't matter how much money you have, how much insurance you have, what your background is, if you need help -you get help. That's it .”
With around 30 volunteers, including ten nurses, three doctors, three people on the herbal supplement team, four people in the mental health committee and two people on the pharmacy team, Occupy Medical provides 100 percent free treatment. If the volunteers can't offer the service needed, they also go “behind the scenes” in other organizations to help people through it.
As the clinic manager, Sieralupe solicits funds, donations and supplies. She looks at the volunteers’ background to put them in the right job. She is also the spokesperson for Occupy Medical. She attends panels with other healthcare advocates, and gives classes at OSU on how to open your own clinic.
Wearing her t-shirt “Healthcare is a human right” with pride, she estimates she spends 20 hours a week to keep the clinic running, and, along with her full-time job, she still has kids at home. “And yet, somehow I end up here every Sunday. I've had two Sundays off since it started,” she says.
She suspects the community sees them as a first aid tent for the homeless. “This is a great delusion, the fact is that 40% of our patients are homeless, and the rest have homes. A huge chunk of them have insurance but they can't use it,” she says.
Occupy Medical clinic is a holistic clinic. “Holistic medicine is a system of health care which fosters a cooperative relationship among all those involved, leading towards optimal attainment of the physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual aspects of health,” as defined by the Canadian Holistic Medical Association, according to Sieralupe.
When you enter the mobile clinic, you meet a nurse who makes an assessment. The next station is with a doctor, after this a nurse takes you to the treatment station where you can choose from pharmaceuticals, herbal treatment, nutritional support and homeopathic aid.
“Every week we get more opportunities to offer more complex care,” she says. Other clinics are even referring their patients to them.
“I am glad they are here,” Aaron says, a social worker recommended to help by personnel from White Bird Clinic in Eugene. Aaron has a job, a home, but he can't afford healthcare.
People come for ear infections, sore throats or more serious conditions. “It just takes a few minutes and we offer them options,” Sieralupe says. “And make no mistake, it's first aid but we are also saving people's lives.”
Sieralupe hopes that people will follow her lead in the future and create free clinics all over the country. “My hope is that eventually there will be no use for us.”