Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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US: Muslim doctors’ free clinics help immigrants, the uninsured, poor

Muslim doctors’ free clinics help immigrants, the uninsured, poor

Many Muslim doctors across America have opened their own facilities funded primarily through donations to help the poor and the uninsured. The trend, which started a little more than a decade ago, is taking root in Alabama, reports The Charlotte Observer.

Most of these clinics have multilingual staff speaks English, Urdu and Arabic. Spanish interpreters are available when needed.

For example, the Red Crescent Clinic of Alabama operates out of the Hoover Crescent Islamic Center on Hackberry Lane. From 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. every Sunday, classrooms are converted into health care hubs where flu shots, vaccinations and lab work costs are nonexistent for patients. Prescriptions can be found at steep discounts. A team of 16 Muslim physicians sees patients for free regardless of income, religion. The philosophy allows the clinic fills a gap for people who have limited medical options in the greater Birmingham area. Most of the kids seen at the clinic are children from refugee families or families who recently immigrated to the US. A pediatrician started seeing patients once every three months in 2016.

Like many Muslim-led clinics across the nation, the creation of Red Crescent was a response to the negative social climate toward the Islamic faith. Co-founder Talha Malik immigrated to New York City from Pakistan in June 2001 to study internal medicine. Seeing foreign-born residents running hospitals was an inspiring sight and a different environment from his home country where someone’s future is determined by their socio-economic status, ethnic group and religion, Malik said.

In 2011, Malik said a group of Birmingham doctors of Pakistani descent gathered for dinner to discuss opening a clinic. Providing free services would allow them to illustrate the servitude of their faith by helping those who couldn’t afford primary health care. After receiving support from the Birmingham Islamic Society and other donations from the Muslim community, the clinic was opened in 2012.

What started as a mission to dispel negative stereotypes, soon expanded. The clinic saw 396 patients in 2017. Malik said 40 percent of the patients are non-Muslims. The number of non-Muslim clients has grown over the years as they started to add psychiatric and pediatric services that complement the community’s needs, Malik said.

Malik said the clinic will continue to build its services as the years go on. The staff would like to add subspecialties like oncologists and cardiologists to their rotation and provide imaging services, such as ultrasounds. Malik said clinic staff have actively talked about having a mobile clinic that will travel across the state once a month and provide free health care in the parking lot of churches, synagogues and other Islamic centers.

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation estimates 420,800 Alabamians, or nine percent of the state’s population, were uninsured in 2016. On a federal level, non-citizens qualify for Medicaid and CHIP coverage five years after they receive legal immigration status. Exceptions are made for refugees, asylees, or lawful permanent residents who used to be refugees or asylees.