Annual free clinic at the Climate Pledge Arena canceled due to planned concerts


by Agueda Pacheco Flores

The annual free medical clinic, which used to be held at Key Arena before it was bought by Amazon and renamed the Climate Pledge Arena, will not fully return this year.

The Seattle/King County Clinicnormally scheduled in October, provided vision, dental and general medical care to hundreds of patients who were either low-income, underinsured or homeless.

The clinic also does not ask for proof of citizenship or personal information. The clinic also has its own comic book explaining its origins and mission with artwork by a number of local artists also available online. This year, a clinic at a different location is only available for patients who want eye examinations or vision aids.

Seattle Center‘s clinic project director, Julia Colson, shared the news via email with volunteers and those involved with the clinic in February. In the email provided to the South Seattle EmeraldColson wrote, “It is with great regret that we announce that due to the loss of appointments in the Climate Pledge Arena and the inability to find alternative options, there will not be a full Seattle/King County Clinic in 2022.”

Colson wrote they would be looking at ways to offer the clinic again in 2023.

According to the email, the clinic has provided an estimated $20 million in dental, visual, medical and social care to approximately 23,000 patients since 2014.

A spokesman for the Seattle Center wrote in an email that Oak View Group (OVG) and the Climate Pledge Arena are committed to bringing the clinic back in the coming years and are working to bring the full clinic back next April.

“Both OVG and the Seattle Center consider this a valued community resource and understand its importance,” the statement said.

The Climate Pledge Arena has offered its Northgate practice facility for a week, but due to logistics, “from the difficulty of securing medical equipment to the relocation of infrastructure and human resources,” only an eye clinic is being offered.

A Zac Brown Band concert on October 20 and The Who’s concert on October 22 at the Arena are scheduled on the dates normally set aside for the clinic.

The Zac Brown Band’s promotional contact and The Who’s charity, Who Cares Teen Cancer America, did not respond to requests for comment. A media inquiry to the Climate Pledge Arena was also unanswered at the time of going to press.

in one petition Initiated by Dr. Rick Arnold, a senior medical volunteer at the clinic, wrote that patients had gone without necessary care for at least two years due to the pandemic, and claimed Oak View Group had failed to fulfill their side of an agreement.

“Unfortunately, the Oak View Group has withdrawn from the previously agreed dates for the Clinic in 2022 and has instead booked other events at the Climate Pledge Arena on those dates,” he wrote. “This action is not what community-focused partners should be doing.”

Due to renovations at Key Arena, people are registering for February 2020 Seattle/King County Clinic services to be held at McCaw Hall. (Photo: Susan Fried)

In years past, patients began queuing the night before for the first-come-first-served clinic. The event, which was normally held at Key Arena, was moved to McCaw Hall in 2020 due to renovations.

“I run the night line, which is a brutal thing,” says Michael Chandler, a longtime volunteer at the clinic. “People came to be seen about 20 hours before opening, so by 11pm we had a line of people to get medical attention the next day.”

Hundreds of patients would be cared for by dozens of volunteer medical workers over the weekend. The clinic offered people a lifeline, in one case they caught a female cancer it became a greater risk to their health.

“I don’t think people understand the scope or the need until they actually get there or see it,” he explains. “There are migrant workers with young children and in my opinion if you have a child under the age of 12 and you need any kind of medical care, you should just get that.”

Chandler, who has produced for various other events at the Seattle Center in the past, said it was heartbreaking to hear the clinic was canceled this year because of a music concert, but also understood why decision-makers who just had a brand new arena built can choose to continue with concerts.

“You have to pay for everything,” he says.

Julia Konkell, another volunteer disappointed by the absence of this year’s clinic, said the impact and importance could not be measured in numbers alone.

“It’s easy for a big company to look at the bottom line and not understand the human cost,” she wrote in an email, adding, “We can quantify the millions of dollars of care, but it’s about to see people being cared for with dignity and respect that you understand the true human impact.”

Agueda Pacheco Flores is a journalist focused on Latin American culture and Mexican-American identity. Originally from QuereTaro, Mexico, Pacheco Flores draws inspiration from her own bicultural upbringing as an undocumented immigrant and proud Washington native.

📸 Featured Image: Hundreds of patients attended the last annual clinic offering free medical, dental and eye care services in February 2020. The event, which normally had people waiting overnight for a chance at free medical services, has been suspended in 2021 due to the COVID-19. 19 pandemic. (Photo: Susan Fried)

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