Maria Gallardo, 75, hears her name called. She takes hold of her cane and slowly uses it to lift her 4 foot-11-inch body from the chair. It takes her several minutes to finally get to her feet. Because of a recent fall she endured, Gallardo is left injured and dependent on a cane. Carefully, she walks toward 80-year-old volunteer Dr. Jack Broms, an orthopedic surgeon whose 6-foot frame towers over Gallardo.
“And how are you?” he greets her in Spanish.
“I’m good. My ear doesn’t bother me anymore,” she responds. Broms walks her into the patient room to begin examining her ear.
Gallardo is hurt, but grateful to be seen by Broms.
For approximately 20 years, Broms and other volunteer doctors and pharmacists have provided free medical attention to an average of 250 patients a month, at the Salvation Army free medical and dental clinic in Oxnard, called Oxnard Corps Medical and Dental Clinic. They utilize the resources available from St. John’s Hospital, which handles their lab work for free, and the Salvation Army of Oxnard, which provides the business license and facility to run the clinic. Because of their combined efforts, an environment is created where medical of attention is given to those who can’t afford health care and/or are in need medical attention.
Most of the patients he sees are low income, have minimal or no medical insurance and are elderly in urgent need of medical attention.
Elsa Sumora, another patient of Broms, has high blood pressure and is diabetic. She couldn’t afford the medication needed to regulate her condition because of lack of medical insurance. Even though she owned a business, affordable health insurance was never available. By the time she came to see Broms, her numbers were dangerously high.
Immediately, she was placed on medication; and after eight months of treatment, her condition is under control and she has even lost 10 pounds. “It’s invaluable, the care we get here,” she said. “They really do care about their patients.”
The clinic has a pharmacy on site and all prescriptions are free. Broms said that much of the supplies are samples donated from different doctors’ offices; and what isn’t donated, the Salvation Army purchases.
The first 10 years the clinic was open, many of the drugs were donated from pharmaceutical companies thanks to the excess profits law. According to Broms, the law required all pharmaceuticals to give 10 percent of their excess profits to charitable organizations. Because the law is no longer in effect, the clinic must purchase most of its drugs. To cut costs, generic prescriptions are purchased.
A generic drug is one that is essentially the equivalent of a name brand drug, but is produced only after the original drug’s seven year patent has expired. It can be sold for less because the producer of the generic product need not recoup the cost of development and testing, just the cost of manufacture.
In addition to having a pharmacy, there is also pharmacist John McDougal, who has volunteered with the clinic for 10 years. Together, Broms and McDougal sort through the free samples and generic drugs and prepare them for their patients’ needs.
“The volunteers that work here do it out of sincerity and humanity,” said Broms
Dr. Charles Fletcher, a volunteering pediatrician, said that most of their patients are hard workers and good people. “We volunteer because we’re doctors. We like to help people. That’s why we studied medicine.”
Although many of the doctors are retired, some still practice medicine. Currently, the clinic has 17 dedicated doctors who devote their skill and knowledge to helping those in need of free medical care.
The clinic has a doctor on site every Monday and Thursday, and from Monday through Friday, two staff nurses care for the patients.
“We have doctors of all kinds here. We do the best we can and we do consult with each other. … When we’re in over our heads, we refer our seriously ill patients to the county hospital, but also there are county clinics which will follow some of our patients,” said Broms.
Broms finishes examining Gallardo’s ear. She waits quietly as he reads through her chart. After much attention, he determines that she needs to see a specialist because her eardrum is broken. He gives a referral and helps her out of the patient room.
Gallardo does have Medicare and a primary physician, but she prefers to come here because of the personal service.
“The nurses and doctors here treat you like family, with respect and love,” said Gallardo.
The Salvation Army free medical and dental clinic is located at 622 W. Wooley Road in Oxnard. For more information, call 483-9235.
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