World Bulletin / News Desk
A new health clinic at the American Islamic Outreach Foundation (AIOF) in California is offering free medical care once a month to people who don’t have insurance and who live below the poverty line.
The clinic was started in October after Raza Ulhaq, a Charlotte pharmacist, who realised that many people from the local community approached him for medical advice. He met many of them when he went to his local mosque for prayer.
“I try to help them as much as I can, but I’m not a medical doctor,” Ulhaq said. “Then I realized there is a need for a free health clinic.”
About a year ago, Ulhaq began talking to doctors and to AIOF representatives about hosting the clinic at its large facility on Shamrock Drive.
The specialty care ranges from cardiology, pulmonology, neurology, physical medicine, nephrology, orthopedic surgery, phlebotomy and rheumatology. The clinic also offers gynecology services, free mammograms and pediatric care, as well as a low-cost dental clinic. These specialists provide specialty through Al-Shifa Clinic as well as through their own offices.
The clinic has between 30 to 45 doctors volunteering each month and sees about 200 patients a month on the medical side.
The medical centre has an open-door policy to provide care irrespective of race, religion or socio-economic status as it one of the imperatives of Islam to care for one's neighbour.
“Islam preaches that we should care for and help people regardless of race and religion,” Ulhaq said. “"It didn’t say, ‘Muslim neighbors.’ Islam said, ‘your neighbors.’"
The their aim to serve low-income and uninsured patients. Initial research showed that in that throughout the US there were at least 10 Muslim health clinics that serve the uninsured or underinsured, including non-Muslim-majority communities.
The Shifa Free Health Clinic is open once a month on a Saturday. It is called Shifa after the Arabic word for healing.
“Some hadn’t seen a doctor in more than a year,” he said. “It was so touching. They were very appreciative.”
As demand grows, Ulhaq intends to open it twice a month and more frequently if necessary, and he is continuing to recruit medical professionals and volunteers.
The clinic uses a wing of the AIOF facility, and for now doctors supply their own equipment. Ulhaq plans to soon begin buying equipment for the clinic.
source: Huffington Post/Charlotte Observer