People with low incomes who lack health insurance can get medical services at a new free clinic in Chantilly. The Adams Compassionate Healthcare Network, a nonprofit arm of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, formally opened the clinic June 8 with an inaugural ceremony at the ADAMS Sully Center.
An interfaith team of volunteer doctors and other medical professionals donate their services Saturdays at the clinic, which ADAMS officials describe as “the first Muslim-organized initiative in Virginia that seeks to meet the comprehensive health-care needs of all qualifying, low-income individuals.” Organizers said the clinic is the first of what they hope becomes a network of free clinics across Virginia and, eventually, in other states.
“As Muslims, we believe that if anyone saves a life, it is as though they have saved the lives of all of mankind,” said Rizwan Jaka, chairman of the ADAMS board of trustees. “And so that is one of the banners that we operate under . . . to help others that are in need, to help save lives. And that is the mission . . . that this clinic was born out of.”
Jaka said that the health care network is a multi-faith, multilingual nonprofit organization with volunteers and patients of many different religious and cultural backgrounds.
“Even with the Affordable [Care] Act, there are millions of Americans without health insurance, hundreds of thousands of Virginians without health insurance . . . and it is something that we as private citizens should do to help those who are not covered,” Jaka said.
Yahya Alvi, chairman of the health-care network, said that the clinic has provided care for more than 200 patients since it began offering services in November. More than 200 volunteers have donated more than 1,200 hours of medical services valued at more than $100,000 at no cost to patients or the health-care system, he said.
Although the health-care network includes specialists in areas such as cardiology, ophthalmology and OB/GYN, the focus is on primary care, said Tariq Aziz, the clinic’s medical director.
“We’ve got about 30 or 40 primary care physicians who rotate every week, who come in and see patients,” he said. They are usually referred to private offices if they need specialists, he said, “because inevitably, they’re going to need some kind of procedures done which are very difficult to coordinate out of the clinic, with it being only open on Saturdays for patients.”
Aziz said the clinic also provides support and education in areas such as diet, nutrition, blood pressure and managing medications.
Patients who want to receive services at the clinic need to make an appointment to come in during the week, and bring financial documents for eligibility screening, Aziz said. The clinic is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays for screening, he said.
“If they’re eligible, then we see them on Saturdays,” Aziz said. “That’s the only time we have physicians and providers who come here to see those patients. Because we’re a registered free clinic in the commonwealth of Virginia, [patients] have to meet specific requirements, and with the hustle and bustle of patients on Saturdays, we can’t screen them and get them in quickly.”
Aziz said he hopes to be able to expand the clinic’s Saturday hours and begin offering services Sundays, based on the availability of providers and space at the clinic.
“We have a long way to go,” Aziz said. “This is only the beginning. We have only scratched the surface of what we feel the vision [is] for the service community and for the patients we are serving. We want to expand our network of physicians, ultimately establish a hospital [and] expand the social services that we provide for the patients.”
The inaugural ceremony attracted government officials and leaders of religious and civic organizations, including representatives of Muslim, Jewish and Christian congregations; Loudoun and Fairfax county government officials; Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office officials; Scout groups; and members of the Salvation Army.
The two major party candidates for Virginia’s 10th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives — state Del. Barbara J. Comstock (R-Fairfax) and Fairfax Supervisor John W. Foust (D-Dranesville) — congratulated the ADAMS leadership on the opening of the free clinic.
“When you’re serving people, it’s not just their health-care needs you’re serving,” Comstock said. “It’s to bring God’s mercy to them and, really, to cure the whole person. And we know so often when we have people who are in need in any way, whether it’s health care or needing food, they’re also in need of a community. And what you here are doing is bringing a sense of community, bringing the interfaith community together.”
“Health care is a basic human right,” Foust said. “It shouldn’t matter what your station in life [is], or whether you’re rich or poor or where you live. You should have access . . . to good, quality health care. Unfortunately, many people in this country do not. We’re working and trying to address and solve that problem on the national and state levels. But at the local level, we’re always going to have to have organizations like this clinic.”
Jim Barnes is a freelance writer.