Doctors open free clinic focused on West County residents
By Mary Shapiro | Posted: Wednesday, January 11, 2012 6:30 am
Athar Khan, of O’Fallon, Mo., had no insurance and no clue where to go when he started having knee pain.
“But I found out about the new Volunteers in Medicine West County Clinic through my mosque,” he said Sunday afternoon, as he sat in the waiting room of the clinic in Manchester.
“If I didn’t come here, I would have had to go to a hospital emergency room. I’m very glad they’re here.”
Helping those in the community and taking some of the pressure off jammed hospital emergency rooms are the goals of the new clinic, which is operated by medical and non-medical volunteers.
It’s a public health project of the Islamic Foundation of Greater St. Louis, which pitches in by paying rent for the clinic offices. Many of the volunteers attend the mosque.
The two-month-old clinic is open from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sundays and offers free, non-emergency primary health care for uninsured, low-income people aged 18 to 64.
Although the clinic is open to any patient who meets the income requirements, the clinic focuses on providing primary care to those who live or work in Manchester, Winchester, Ellisville, Des Peres, Ballwin, Chesterfield, Wildwood, or Town and Country.
Dr. Maimuna Baig and her husband, Dr. Sajjad Baig, opened their first clinic a year and a half ago near their office on Harbor Bend Court in Lake St. Louis. She was inspired to open the clinic after hearing about Volunteers in Medicine.
Volunteers in Medicine has more than 80 free clinics in 25 states run by volunteers, many of them retired health care professionals. The program started in Hilton Head, N.C., in 1994 by a group of retired physicans, who recognized a large number of residents were unable to afford health care.
Dr. Maimuna Baig and Sajjad Baig, who are internal medicine specialists, were encountering patients unable to afford health care in their private practice. So they opened a free clinic in Lake St. Louis that is affiliated with Volunteers in Medicine.
“The Lake St. Louis clinic has been successful and very busy,” she said. “We’ve had almost 2,000 visits in the last one and half years and have at least 15 volunteers on the Tuesdays and Thursdays it’s open there.”
That led her to open a second clinic near the Daar-ul-Islam mosque she attends in West County.
Dr. Sajjad Baig, president of the West County clinic, said he hopes more people will volunteer at the Manchester clinic so he and his wife can open the clinic on Wednesdays and extend the office hours on both days.
“We have enough physicians volunteering, but need more nurses and physician assistants,” he said.
Ryan Kelley, volunteer coordinator, said the clinic serves patients whose income doesn’t exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
West County patients are provided with free lab work on an as-needed basis, Kelley said, and the clinic has made agreements with local diagnostic laboratories to do that.
While the clinic can only offer free lab work to West County residents, it also offers free primary care to any uninsured people who meet income requirements, regardless of residency, Kelley said.
Dr. Sajjad Baig said the West County Clinic’s nine or so volunteers on a recent Sunday were seeing, on an appointment basis, about 10 people each Sunday.
Surgeon Dr. Muhammad Jamil and wife Naheed, of Des Peres, also were helping out.
Naheed said the clinic is needed “for the more and more people who can’t afford care, to help them avoid becoming seriously ill.”
Her husband said he wanted “to make things better for those who otherwise would slip through the cracks.”
Dr. Mohammed Ashraf, of Ellisville, was treating patients with high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, and colds and flu.
“Some of those coming are new immigrants, some have lost jobs, but no one pays a single penny here, and we do our best to serve them,” he said.
“Medicine is about helping people,” he said.
Dr. Zafar Rehmani, of Town & Country, is one of the West County clinic’s directors, and said many doctors affiliated with the Islamic Foundation “want to volunteer to provide care with dignity and respect.”
Waseem Akvr, of Ballwin, had brought his mother, Akhtar Unnise, because she has high blood pressure and no insurance.
“We’re thankful they’re doing this great work,” Akvr said.
Original post: Doctors open free clinic focused on West County residents