Seattle IT helps power giant free health clinic at Seattle Center

Stephen Burke, Seattle IT desktop support technician, is marking his sixth year creating a complex online network to power and connect the Seattle/King County Health Clinic, a giant free health clinic at Seattle Center, Feb. 13 to 16. The volunteer-driven event provides free dental, vision, and medical to anyone who struggles to access and afford healthcare. 

This year, Burke started from scratch. And he is embracing the challenge. In the past, the mobile clinic was held at KeyArena, which is undergoing an overhaul and is unavailable. So Burke shelved his carefully constructed network blueprints for the arena and this year crafted a new plan to span the clinic’s three Seattle Center venues: McCaw Hall, Exhibition Hall and Cornish Playhouse.  

A man holding a spool of string walks next to a long table with technology equipment.
Stephen Burke, Seattle IT desktop support technician, prepares technology to help power the Seattle/King County Health Clinic at Seattle Center. Photo: Auston James

While Burke estimates he spends about a month preparing, he efficiently executes his plan over the course of two days.  

“We will need to invent a network on the go,” said Burke. “I have a team of volunteers to help.”  

Not all volunteers have an IT background, but under Burke’s guidance they get the job done. In addition to building a network of wires that bring power and internet connectivity to the clinic, Burke and a staff of about five will be on hand during the clinic to provide technical support.  

Seattle IT loaned the clinic 62 computers –  about 25 of which are used for patient registration – and Microsoft provided another 12 computers. 

“The expectation of technology is huge. One of our responsibilities as techs is to have the technology working all the time, every time,” Seattle IT Device Support Manager Ivan Balbuena told Seattle Channel in a segment that was part of a recent CityStream program featuring the clinic along with a documentary, “Stronger than Medicine,” which offers an inspiring behind-the-scenes look at the event. 

“A lot of volunteers, like the physicians, bring their own laptops to work with at the clinic,” said Burke. “I troubleshoot to fix any issues they may have as well as all donated and borrowed technology equipment that is used for the clinic.” 

Technology is the backbone of the well-organized clinic which has served 20,000 patients, provided $17 million in direct services, and engaged 17,000 volunteers since it began in 2014. 

“Seattle IT is critical to the successful operation of Seattle/King County Clinic. The clinic uses a wide range of technology, from X-ray and ultrasound equipment, to registration systems and remote interpretation devices,” said Seattle/King County Clinic Project Director Julie Colson. “The equipment and systems come from an equally wide array of sources that are unaccustomed to working together. With only two days to set up, thanks to the expertise and support of Seattle IT, all of the technology is integrated and operational allowing us to serve over 3,000 patients during the four-day clinic.” 

Although Burke could unplug from the massive operation, the compassion and sense of community the clinic inspires is contagious and keeps him on the job. 

“I have 32 years in with the City but I’m not going to retire until the clinic moves to the new arena,” said Burke. “Then I will consider it.” 

To learn about the clinic, including patient information, go here