MCA opens a Free Health Clinc

MCA Opens a Free Medical clinic

offered in borough building
Sunday, August 21, 2011
By Sean D. Hamill, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Chris Kasprak/Post-Gazette
Dr. Salah Almoukamal puts on his gloves at the Braddock Free Clinic on Saturday.
When Mohammed Akhtar came up with the idea to open a free clinic in Braddock after UPMC Braddock hospital closed last year, he had patients in mind just like Vivian Copney.
Ms. Copney, 54, lost her nurse’s assistant job when the hospital closed Jan. 31, 2010, and hasn’t found work since. A month ago, the extension on her COBRA insurance ran out and she couldn’t afford the higher rates to continue it, but she hasn’t yet qualified for Medicare.
“These are the people we want to help: the people who slip between the cracks of our system,” said Dr. Akhtar, a retired Slippery Rock University psychology professor and president of the local chapter of the Muslim Council of America, which is sponsoring the clinic with funds and 16 volunteer doctors from all over the region — including UPMC.
In the month since Ms. Copney’s insurance ran out, she said the medicine that keeps her high blood pressure in check ran out.
Through word-of-mouth she heard the clinic was opening in the Braddock borough hall and she ended up being its first-ever patient Saturday morning.
After a 30-minute visit in the exam room — the temporarily converted Braddock code enforcement office — with the primary care physician Amjad Jalil, normally an oncologist at Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Jefferson Hills, she walked out with a prescription that will only cost her a $5 co-pay.
“It’s great,” she said of the clinic. “I’ve been going to clinics and they keep telling me, ‘Come back when you have insurance.’ But my blood pressure was sky high. I’m glad I came in. I’m going to tell my sister and all the friends and family I know who don’t have insurance about it.”
The drop-in clinic is for adults who make up to 350 percent of the federal poverty threshold — $37,905 for one person and $77,175 for a family of four — and who have no health coverage, either private or government-sponsored insurance.
“I wanted us to start small, kept it to adult medicine and primary care and weekends,” she said. “But the goal is to expand into acute care and sub-specialties.”
Dr. Akhtar said he had watched with concern when UPMC closed Braddock’s hospital.
“I saw the commotion and emotions and anger running all over” because of the decision, he said. “That’s what really showed me that this community was really suffering because of this.”
Dr. Jalil has known Dr. Akhtar for years and thought from the first proposal “that this was a good idea.”
After coming up with the idea, Dr. Akhtar had a tough start.

First published on August 21, 2011 at 12:00 am

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