MEDICAL CARE FOR PEOPLE
The following article was written by the Asian Community Health Clinic team to announce and explain their efforts to help solve the health needs of the community. We look forward to much success for them.
Severe health problems exist in Chinatown. This fact is documented by official city health statistics and our own personal observations and experiences. The conditions of overcrowding, poor housing, and low incomes are some of the main causes for the community’s health crisis. Agencies such as the Chinese Hospital Out-Patient Clinic, the Northeast Health Center, Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Association Medical Clinic, the Northeast Mental Health Team, and the Northeast Medical Services Center have all been trying to remedy the situation.
NEEDS NOT MET
However, sorely needed medical attention has not yet reached a large section of the community. Between low-income families who can afford private professional health care, there exists a large group of families who are not yet reached by current health care delivery procedures.
Under the NEMS guidelines, for example, a family of four earning more than $5,500 per year will not be eligible for service. However, there are many families, even with an annual income exceeding $5,500, which cannot afford private care. In this same group, we might also include those who, although technically eligible for health care at the existing facilities, are discouraged from utilizing their services ponerous and oppressive administrative procedures.
A group of members of the Chinatown community met in October 1970 to discuss some possible solutions such as setting up a free clinic. Months of meetings went by with no concrete results while attempts were made to find a location, stabilize the membership, and launching mass health screenings.
After much research into the feasibility of such screenings, a glaucoma screening was launched. With the donation of medical personnel and equipment (mainly from the Northern California Society for the Prevention of Blindness), our own volunteer bilingual staff, and the donation of space at the Asian Community Center, a glaucoma screening was conducted on July 10 and July 17 .
The results of the screening clearly indicated the magnitude of health crisis facing the Chinatown community. Out of a total of 174 people that were screened, there were 9 cases of severe to mild glaucoma, 30 cases of severe to mild cataract, 81 cases requiring prescription for glasses, and 10 cases of other eye problems. Many of these cases involved multiple eye problems
Since the glaucoma screening, we have been trying to open a clinic on a regular basis. We have been incorporated as an independent, non-profit, tax-exempt organization under California State law. The present all-volunteer staff included several doctors, community health workers, members of community organizations, working people from the community, the Asian Health Caucus from UC, and students from San Francisco State and City College.
The doctors with us are hospital physicians, and are therefore only covered for malpractice at the hospitals they work at. For their work at the clinic, however, we need to obtain a malpractice insurance policy that covers their work, specifically for the Asian Community Health Clinic. In order to do this, the cl
inic itself must acquire a State license to function as a health clinic before the insurance company will sell us the insurance. This license has been applied for but the date of its arrival is uncertain. Pending our opening as a clinic on a regular basis, we are planning further health screenings. The next one we wish to conduct is a children’s eye screening.
In our attempt to provide health services for the Chinatown-North Beach community we define our objectives as follows;
1) To increase the accessibility of the existing health facilities to the people of the community.
2) To make basic health services readily available to the community through our facilities.
To carry out these objectives, we have designed the following programs:
1) To continue with health screenings and the referral programs on the screenings, so that the community will become more aware of the resources available to them.
2) To set up an operative health clinic where patients can receive the attention of a doctor and medical staff and acquire whatever treatment, or advice from other facilities (such as hospitals for advanced cases beyond the clinic’s facilities) as is called for by medical diagnosis.
3) To institute a preventive-medicine educational program as a means of solving some of the health problems developing in the community that can be checked by conscious preventive efforts.
Although we are meeting with many technical difficulties, we are looking forward to the opening of the clinic which will take place as soon as possible. It is our firm belief that good and adequate medical attention is the right of everyone, regardless of one’s income. In view of this principle, we will work to make the clinic a true community clinic.