PITTSBURG -- RotaCare Pittsburg Free Medical Clinic at St. Vincent de Paul is a bustling place, what with volunteer doctors, nurses and other medical professionals taking care of patients who benefit from the no-cost care provided to them.
This week, volunteers were not only were busy seeing patients but also took out time to celebrate two years of providing services at the clinic, which recently added twice-a-month Saturday hours in addition to weekly clinic hours on Wednesdays.
The clinic specializes in providing short-term urgent care, which includes medical exams, diagnostic and lab testing, and medications, to low-income patients. Most of them are uninsured. If necessary, patients are referred for surgical procedures to Operation Access, a partnering organization.
The clinic first opened its doors in February of 2011 through an ongoing partnership of 10 local Rotary clubs, churches and St. Vincent de Paul of Contra Costa County. It receives financial support from several foundations and corporations.
"We need this clinic because there's a huge uninsured population in Contra Costa County, and East County was hit more than the rest of Contra Costa because of the foreclosure and unemployment situation," said Barb Hunt, development director for St. Vincent de Paul.
Most of the 1,800 patients who have been seen by the clinic since it opened have come from Antioch and Pittsburg, she said.
Dr. Hamidreza Khonsari, who has a private practice in Antioch, has been volunteering at the clinic for two years and was recently named its medical director.
The clinic has added nutritional and educational classes aimed to help patients cope with long-term chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity.
"We found that 40 percent of our patients have some chronic (condition) they are dealing with, something they have to learn how to manage," Hunt said.
Angela Rivello, a retired Kaiser Permanente nurse, has been volunteering since the clinic opened and is a member of the clinic's advisory council.
"I fell in love with the whole idea once I started (volunteering), just seeing how much it was doing for people who don't have insurance," she said. "It's been great to see so much good come out of so little. A few of us had an idea, and because of collaboration and working as a team, we've created something very valuable in the community."
But it's not just her fellow volunteers that Rivello praises.
The clinic would not be the clinic it is without the patients who have made the decision to take care of their health.
"We don't just see uninsured and undocumented (patients). We see folks whose jobs were cut back and there was a cut in their (medical) benefits," Rivello said. "It can be pretty humbling to come here."
Contact Eve Mitchell at 925-779-7189. Follow her on Twitter.com/EastCounty_Girl.
The clinic is at the St. Vincent de Paul Family Resource Center, 2210 Gladstone Drive, Pittsburg. Clinic hours are from 4 to 8 p.m. every Wednesday and from 9 a.m. to noon on the second and fourth Saturday. To make an appointment for a Saturday or Wednesday visit, call 925-439-2009 from 1 to 3 p.m. on Wednesday. Doctors, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, medical assistants and other medical professionals who are interested in volunteering can also call 925-439-2009.