INDIGENT CARE: Clinic Director Lauds 32 Years of Free Services
Lamenting the plight of America's 40 million residents who lack health insurance, Haight Ashbury Free Clinic Director Dr. Joseph Elson asserts, in a San Francisco Chronicle op-ed, "health care is a right, not a privilege." He writes, "Drug abuse remains a national epidemic and the lack of a comprehensive rational health policy on the subject of drug addiction remains a national embarrassment," citing increased AIDS rates, hepatitis C's 99% infection rate among intravenous drug users and San Francisco General Hospitals' recent closure of a major pharmacy, "limiting thousands of indigent patients' ability to receive needed medicine." In contrast, he describes Haight Ashbury's successful growth, from a "drop-in, all-volunteer clinic geared toward treating young hippies during the Summer of Love" in 1967, to "a full-service professional organization with a paid staff of 250," 20 locations and a patient volume that reached 24,000 last year. He notes that all services are free upon delivery and no private insurance is accepted. Services include pediatric care, HIV care, outpatient drug detoxification, residential drug treatment, women's health, pharmacological research and education, and Rock Med, which provides medical staff at concerts. The clinic also serves prison inmates with psychiatric and primary care. Elson concludes, "Our commitment is as strong today as it was 32 years ago, because health care is a right, not a privilege" (6/8).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.