Hundreds turn out for free medical care

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - Hundreds of people were wrapped around the building of the North Charleston Convention Center before the sun came up on Friday.

The reason? Free medical care. On Friday and Saturday, SC Mission 2013 and Dental Access Days held a free medical clinic to treat Lowcountry patients.

The event runs from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday and 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday at the North Charleston Convention Center.

"DentaQuest is proud to be a supporter of South Carolina Dental Access Days since the initiative's inception in 2009," said Rebekah Mathews, Executive Director of DentaQuest in South Carolina. "Often safety net dental programs require additional resources to meet the immediate needs of communities struggling to improve oral health. Through DentaQuest's annual financial and volunteer support of this program, we remain committed to the communities we serve in South Carolina."

Betty Austin was the first person in line to attend the free dental clinic hosted by the South Carolina Dental Association. Austin said she had waited in the line since 3 p.m. on Thursday {}to get in the door at 6 a.m. on Friday.

Hundreds of other people said they slept in line overnight waiting to get the free care. Denise Fisher and Bill Plank drove 4 hours from Anderson just to get seen by a dentist. They said the drive was well worth the wait in both not having dental insurance.

Those attending the free dental clinic could receive free X-Rays, teeth cleaning, extractions and other dental work.

"This is a reflection of the fact that the jobs and the economic agenda is the priority of this state and the nation we need to keep our focus," said Sen. Tim Scott. {}

Scott says the Affordable Care Act is not going help people showing up to events like SC Mission 2013, but he's proud of the community for lending a hand.

"I feel a sense of hopefulness that people who have great expertise in a specific area of need are willing to volunteer their time more than 300 folks volunteering their time to make people feel better," said Scott.{}

The SC Mission 2013 featured doctors from all over the Tri-County area and hospitals and focused on medical needs in everything from gynecology, to dermatology, general practice, cardiology, and vision.

A new pair of frames is helping to make West Ashley resident Deborah Barnett see better.

"Every year I try to get a new pair, I'm disabled and it's kind of hard and I have cataracts on my eye too," said Barnett. {}{}

Barnett says she stood in line for hours, but managed to stay awake, while waiting. Nurses working in triage say they've been working non-stop.

{}"There is certainly a need that exists for it from the number of people that we've seen already it should be something that we do every year," said Vicki Ellis.{}

Organizers expect more than 2,000 patients will be seen over the 2 days. Around 300 volunteers make the free medical event possible.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 20 percent of South Carolina's population is uninsured and many more are underinsured, which means that thousands of people in the state have difficulties affording the oral health treatment they require.

The Dental Days program was created in 2009 to address access issues to dental health that many South Carolinians struggle with annually.

For more information on the event, visit