The plan to bring dozens of out-of-town doctors to Southeast Queens for one week this summer had gotten tangled in some red tape, but the area lawmaker who initiated the proposal said it’s back on track and should still happen at the scheduled time.
Due to the lack of hospitals and healthcare in his district, Assemblyman Bill Scarborough (D-Jamaica) introduced a bill a year ago to bring Remote Area Medical Volunteer Corps, a nonprofit Tennessee-based group, to the borough to set up a free clinic for a week.
Scarborough said the event would provide much needed free healthcare to everyone, particularly the uninsured, and would demonstrate through the number of people who attend the need for a new full-service hospital.
The plan hit a snag when the state Education Department, the agency charged with professional licensing, had some concerns, Scarborough said Friday.
It wanted more information on the specific doctors who would be providing the care, so it could determine their suitability for treating patients in the borough, he said. The SED also wanted to ensure that there would be area doctors on board to provide follow-up care after the RAM physicians leave.
Now, both those problems appear to have been resolved.
RAM will give the necessary information about its physicians to the SED, Scarborough said, and several area doctors have agreed to provide after care including those at the Addabbo Family Medical Center, according to its executive director, Peter Nelson.
“Remote Area Medical will be doing mostly screenings and then they will be referring people to us,” Nelson said. “We will also probably have some of our staff at the clinic to distribute information and brochures.”
While the after care at Addabbo would not be free, services for uninsured patients are provided on the low end of a sliding scale, Nelson said, and medication may cost about 50 percent less than it would at a typical pharmacy.
Last session when Scarborough initially introduced the bill, it was on the agenda before the Higher Education Committee when the chairperson consulted with the SED and found out that the agency had some concerns it wanted addressed before the assemblymembers could vote on it.
The lawmaker reintroduced the RAM legislation in early January and has had frequent conversations with the SED since then. He said he feels confident that the bill, which is presently before the Higher Education Committee again, will pass this time around and RAM will arrive on schedule. State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Jamaica) will be the lead sponsor of the companion version of the bill in the Senate.
Members of Southeast Queens in Support of Health Services, which is spearheading the project, will be heading to Sacramento, Calif. on March 28 to attend a RAM seminar, part of the group’s requirements for any host group.
There SQUISH members will learn details about how the clinic will function and how they will be able to assist as volunteers. Funding for the three-day voyage will be provided by the National Basketball Association.
The RAM clinic would include a team of 100 doctors, 50 to 60 dentists and 20-30 opthalmologists and would be open 12 hours a day for five days and could serve 3,000 to 4,000 people, according to Al Smith, chairman of Community Board 12’s Health Committee and a member SQUISH, who will be going on the California trip. Individuals will also be able to get an eye exam and glasses on the spot.
“I am very excited,” Smith said. “I can’t wait to get there and see how the operation is run, and I’m sure we can do the same if not better.”
RAM will keep patients’ medical records for three to five years, Smith said, and SQUISH will let those individuals know how to access the files if they need them
RAM would provide the staff, equipment and services, requiring no money from the city or state, Smith said. But SQUISH would have to provide food and shelter for the workers as well as housing for support staff.
A typical RAM clinic costs between $20,000 and $100,000, Smith said, adding that the NBA has committed to donating $65,000 to cover the expenses — that’s in addition to the money for the California trip.