Music medics mend health center’s costs

Rock fans who party too hard at Bay Area concerts over the decades have helped to keep a San Francisco health care clinic open.

For 34 years, Haight Ashbury Free Clinics Inc. has staffed volunteer doctors and nurses at most major concert venues in the Bay Area, including Golden Gate Park, The Warfield and Candlestick Park.

Event planners pay HAFC for Rock Medicine, footing the bill for medical supplies and insurance and depositing about $200,000 annually into the clinics’ coffers, according to CEO John Eckstrom.

“Rock Med is practically self-sustaining,” he said.

The idea, pioneered in 1973 by famed concert mogul Bill Graham and HAFC founder Skip Gay, puts portable emergency rooms in packed concert venues as a way to keep sick or inebriated fans from overwhelming local hospitals or spilling into city streets.More than 400 volunteer medical practitioners staffed 556 events last year, said Wes Fifield, program director.

Rock Medicine isn’t just benefiting free health care, it also is offering local medical practitioners more on-scene action in their profession, Fifield said. The portable emergency rooms are fashioned after M*A*S*H clinics used during the Korean War, he said.

“With the loud music, [Rock Medicine] becomes very much like battlefield medicine,” he said. “You find yourself in a situation where you can’t hear or see. You’re very much involved in the incident itself.”

Fifield said that while many volunteer practitioners are drawn to the job so they can watch their favorite bands, those who stick around do so to be of service.

Kicking off a new summer of concerts, Rock Medicine will host a public bash and fundraiser at the Great American Music Hall on O’Farrell Street at 6 p.m. Sunday.

Eckstrom expects Rock Med to staff more than 600 events this year.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

Just Posted

Pharmacist Hank Chen handles customer orders on the computer at Charlie’s Drugs in the Fillmore District on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Walgreens closures open the door for San Francisco’s neighborhood pharmacies

‘I think you’ll see more independents start to pop up’

San Franciscans are likely to have the opportunity to vote in four different elections in 2022. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Electionpalooza: SF school board recall will kick off a flurry of local races

‘It’s going to be a lot of elections and a lot of decisions for voters to make’

Four young politicos were elected to city government on the Peninsula in 2020. From left: Redwood City councilmember Michael Smith; South San Francisco councilmember James Coleman; Redwood City councilmember Lissette Espinoza-Garnica; and East Palo Alto councilmember Antonio Lopez. (Examiner illustration/Courtesy photos)
Progressive politicians rise to power on the Peninsula. Will redistricting reverse the trend?

‘There’s this wave of young people really trying to shake things up’

The fate of San Francisco nicotine giant Juul remains to be seen, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reviewing whether to allow certain flavored vape products on the market. <ins>(Jeenah Moon/New York Times)</ins>
How the vape king of teen nicotine addiction rose and fell in San Francisco

‘Hey, Juul, don’t let the door hit you on the way out’

Cabernet sauvignon grapes sat in a container after being crushed at Smith-Madrone Winery in St. Helena. (Courtesy Smith-Madrone Winery)
San Francisco’s ‘Champagne problems’ — Wine industry suffers supply chain woes

‘Everywhere you turn, things that were easy are no longer easy’

Most Read