Watch: Occupy Medical: 'If you need help - you get help'
What began as a temporary first aid tent along the Occupy Eugene movement in October 2011, morphed into the Occupy Medical clinic in February 2012. It's there that every Sunday from noon to 4p.m., volunteers gather at their mobile clinic to make a difference by offering free healthcare in downtown Eugene, Oregon.
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, Sieralupe 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.
Upon entering the mobile clinic, you'll first meet with a nurse who makes an assessment. Then you'll see a doctor, and afterwards a nurse will take you to the treatement station where you can choose from pharmaceuticals, herbal treatment, nutritional support and homeopathic aid. People come to the clinic for everything from ear infections to more serious conditions.
While Sieralupe hopes that others will follow her lead and open free clinics all over the country, she says “My hope is that eventually there will be no use for us.”