Muslims start free health care networkBy Nisa Islam Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Apr 19, 2010 - 4:37:43 PM
PHILADELPHIA - The passage of President Obama's Health Care Bill may arguably be a step in the right direction, according to Muslim Alliance of North America (MANA) officials, however unfortunately the average person who may have gone without health care coverage for decades could be under the mistaken impression that they can suddenly run off to the doctor or hospital tomorrow for free treatment.
Under the direction of Amir Imam Siraj Wahhaj, beginning in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley areas, MANA and the Islamic Social Services Association of Philadelphia are working to build a network of free health care clinics by networking with tens of thousands of Muslim physicians, nurses, dentists, optometrists, health care providers, and private ambulance services around the country.
“Because of my illness with prostate cancer, I became very concerned about everyone else who was sick. This program became something to help the little guy who has no health insurance. We want to provide medical treatment for the masses of the people. We want to think about the masses of people,” said Imam Wahhaj.
“The Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, was the messenger of Allah to everyone. That's our desire to serve everyone in need,” he said.
MANA is looking to duplicate the model of the UMMA Clinic in Los Angeles on the east coast. UCLA graduate and medical students in collaboration started UMMA, the University Muslim Medical Association, in 1990 with the Charles R. Drew School of Medicine.
From the start, the goal was to establish a free clinic in medically underserved South Central Los Angeles. With the administrative and logistical support of UCLA, Drew School of Medicine and L.A. City Councilperson, Rita Walters, the UMMA secured $1.3 million in grants to make its vision a reality.
“We used to be a free clinic but recently received government status as a Federal Qualified Health Clinic. We are now mandated to ask patients to pay on a sliding scale. But we still hold to our mission to promote the well being of the underserved by providing access to high quality healthcare for all regardless of ability to pay,” said Avais Chughtai, UMMA director of community relations and marketing to The Final Call.
“We will not turn anyone away. If they can pay something fine. If they can't pay we will cover the cost. Our goal is to create small clinics in underserved areas. We've found that small clinics are better especially for people who have problems with transportation. We are able to address the community's health care needs.”
The UMMA Community Clinic offers free/low-cost primary care medical services such as immunizations, physical examinations, gynecology, HIV/AIDS testing and more.
The new clinic in Philadelphia is scheduled to open at the end of the year.
“We are proud to partner with MANA to expand our social services to include health care. We know in Philadelphia that we have the resources to do this. Muslim professionals will volunteer their time to provide services,” said Rashidah Hassan Abdul-Khabeer, RN, MHS, and executive director of the Islamic Social Services Association of Philadelphia, Inc.
“We'll begin by offering two to three days of free services. We will also be expanding our social services as well.”
This network, which will begin in Philadelphia, will also lay the groundwork for additional clinics that will reach out to America's inner city neighborhoods where there are over 30 million Americans uninsured, of which 50 percent to 60 percent are Black and Latino.
“The Islamic principle of Zakat means charity, it means giving back. Allah (God) has blessed the doctors we're working with and they want to give back. They are anxious to give back,” said Imam Wahhaj.
This new clinic will embrace the same Islamic principles that UMMA embraces.
“Our founding principles are Islamic principles. We treat our patients with respect, dignity and compassion. Other clinics do this also but we emphasize this. We emphasize treating our patients equally regardless of race, color, income or education, said Mr. Chughtai.