Funding goes to new building for patients at Compton clinic

By: Emily Frost and Dan Watson

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It is 5:30 a.m., and we just pulled into the parking lot at St. John’s Well Child and Family Center in Compton. There is already a line of about four of five people. It is drizzling, and it is very dark.

Antonio, who goes by Tony, was first in line. He seemed pretty proud about it. When he had come before, he said he was about 13th in line; he had counted. This time, he told his wife he was going to be first, and he was. But he was expecting that about 8:30 a.m., when the clinic opens, that he would be in and out. He hoped it would only take about 15 minutes, so it would not shoot down his whole day.

Melvin Richardson arrived a little after 7:30 a.m.

“I had stomach problems one day that led me to find out I had a hernia,” Richardson said. “I just recently, in the last 90 days, got laid off. I was working for a big trucking company, and they closed down. I was there for six-and-a-half years,” Richardson said.

Richardson is now without insurance.

“It is a little crowded. And the wait time, personally it is a little long. ‘Cause I think I came like, last week, and I had an appointment for like, 1:30, and I didn’t get out of here until 4:30,” Richardson said.

Jesus Rios also waited quietly. He, too, was an out of work trucker.

“You know the line, look at that now, it’s growing,” said Rios, laughing. “You know, I come over here because I finished my medicine.”

At St. John’s, Rios’ diabetes medicine is free, unless the clinic runs out. If it does, his medication costs about $200 for a month’s supply at the pharmacy. That is nothing, though, compared to his visit to the emergency room.

“See, I go to the hospital for one day, forget it,” Rios said. “Those people have no heart. They send me a bill for $2,000, $2,000 for nothing,” Rios said.

Rios made sure to arrive early because if there are not enough doctors that day, the clinic will turn people away after the first 10 or 15 patients. If Rios does not get a chance to be seen, “You go home and try to find medicine with your friends,” he said.

And he will get there earlier next time.

By mid-morning, Richardson, who was coming in preparation for his hernia surgery, was running out of patience.

“This right here is outrageous,” he said. “I hope they get me out of here. It’d be their best bet to get me out of here because I will get a little louder again. And I hate to say it, but that’s what it takes sometimes. I don’t want to be up here eight hours. I have a life to live the same way they have.”

Tony was also reaching a breaking point. Though he was first in line and thought he would be in and out in 15 minutes, the clinic staff could not find his file. He was still waiting five hours later.

“He can’t find it,” Tony said. “He says he lost it. I can’t believe it. I no go to my work today, but coming over here. I was first, the first guy waiting outside. Five, yeah, I think it’s been five hours.”

By the end of the day, the clinic had seen 85 people; many waited all day.

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