BROOKSVILLE — A local resident in his 50s suspected he had cancer — a lump in his throat he discovered a year and a half ago — but had not the wherewithal to visit a doctor.
Along came the Crescent Clinic, a no-pay primary care medical facility staffed by volunteers, mainly Muslim doctors who want to pay back the community that has nurtured their careers. The doctors worked to get the man immediate care.
Since its opening this summer, the clinic, in a shopping center at Broad Street and Ponce de Leon Boulevard, has been busy — close to 1,000 patients, including some 50 on a recent Saturday — said medical chief of staff Husan Abuzarad.
The clinic is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each Saturday, and doctors hope to expand hours to help meet the high demand. Some Saturdays, doctors and staff are on site until 6 or 7 p.m., finishing a day's exams, Abuzarad noted.
"It has grown much faster than we expected," said clinic manager Alex Galvan.
Is it due to the economy and job losses?
"I can honestly say the need has always been there, in every community, not just our own," said Galvan, a medical school student.
As for the throat cancer patient, Abuzarad confirmed that the man had a lymph enlargement in his neck and tonsils. But thanks to relationships the Crescent Clinic has been able to develop with other health-care facilities, the man was able to get help.
"He went to Florida Cancer Institute immediately," on the clinic's advisory, Abuzarad said. There he underwent a $4,000 PET scan that the institute performed without charge.
Oak Hill Hospital donated pathology screens, discovering that the patient also had sugar and blood pressure needs. The clinic will deal with those. But with such a delay since the cancer's occurrence, Abuzarad is not confident of a recovery.
While the case is one of the most critical that clinic doctors have seen, many other patients without insurance or below the poverty line have come through the doors. There have been coughs, cuts requiring sutures, minor health disturbances people have been unable to treat effectively at home. One patient read of the clinic online and drove from Alabama for treatment.
Staffing has not been a problem.
"Close to 50 doctors and growing" have signed on, Abuzarad said. "We've got tons of volunteers, nurses, an ultrasound tech with his own equipment, pre-med students, nurse's aides, certified nurse's assistants."
The clinic has an agreement with Florida Cancer Institute-New Hope to treat cancer patients.
And, said Abuzarad, "we're trying to get Oak Hill Hospital to commit to a patient one or two times a month without charge to accomplish some projects," such as surgery.
Galvan said the clinic may expand into other areas of health care.
Said Abuzarad: "We've got lots of support from pharmacists, so we're good to go."
Hernando County commissioners recently recognized the clinic with a commendation for doing good in the community.
Of the volunteers, Galvan said, "These people are top-notch, best in their practices. If it were not for their generous pocketbooks and kind hearts, we wouldn't be able to function as we are."
Beth Gray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.