By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A group of volunteer doctors and nurses from Drexel and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital have teamed up to provide free medical care to the uninsured. The clinic was packed last night, as the flu season goes into full swing.
Dozens of people sat in the small sanctuary of the Holy Redeemer Chinese Catholic Church in Chinatown at 10th and Vine Streets. Every Wednesday evening at 5:30pm, the church transforms into a free clinic for the under-served.
“I know the last month and a half we’ve been seeing a lot of people with symptoms of the flu,” says Dr. Wayne Bond Lau. He works in the ER of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and volunteers at the clinic every week.
But he says for many patients the flu is the least of their worries.
“The clinic’s mission is to try to help as many people as we can,” says Lau. “We see anywhere from 35 to 45 people in the span of about four hours. We take a lot of walk-in patients and they can everything from heart attacks to strokes.”
Drexel University Medical School’s Dr. Vincent Zarro says he started the clinic 12 years ago to help provide medical care to underserved communities.
“There are large groups in our country who do not get medical care in our country on the same level that the rest of us do,” says Zarro. “One of the main reasons is that they do not have health insurance. But there are other reasons as well.”
Like language and cultural differences among immigrant communities Zarro says these issues make getting insurance and seeking medical help extremely difficult. He says the clinic would cost $200 to $300,000 a year to run, but volunteers and small grants allow the clinic to stay free.
“We respect what patients feel about their illness and the fact that they may not be able to see a specialist,” says Zarro.
Med student Calvin Myint says he feels connected to the patients because he recalls when his parents came to the US.
“Twelve years ago when my family got here we were so lost and confused,” says Myint. “That’s why I wanted to volunteer here. To help translate and help prevent chronic conditions.”
The clinic serves all uninsured patients, no questions asked.