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CURRENT ISSUE:  January 24, 2011
VOL. 49, NO. 2   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Two parishes become one in the Island City
Mass, reception recognize religious
Clinic sees more patients in 2010
The Malta Clinic at the Cathedral of Christ the Light saw an increase in patients in 2010.
Carrie McClish photo
What: World Day of the Sick, a Mass for the sick and their caregivers
When: 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5; The sick should plan to arrive by 1:30 p.m.
Where: The Cathedral of Christ the Light, 2121 Harrison St., Oakland
Details: Parking, including handicapped spaces, will be available free in the cathedral’s underground garage on 21st Street for the first 200 cars. Assistance will be available.
Host: The Order of Malta

The Order of Malta Health Clinic at the Cathedral of Christ the Light saw a modest rise in overall patient load in 2010, with a significant shift in the number of new patients versus returning patients over 2009, year-end data showed.

‘Like a dream come true’ says clinic medical director

By Jacqueline Gilvard Landry
Special to The Catholic Voice

Dr. Jacques Hirschler said it was fate that brought him to the Order of Malta Clinic at the Cathedral of Christ the Light, first as a volunteer and now as its director.

After retiring from his job as a healthcare manager for the California Department of Corrections over two years ago, Hirschler said, a nun friend told him he was wasting his skills and “should be doing something.” She directed him to the clinic, where he knew he’d found a home after meeting with his predecessor, Dr. John Chokatos, about volunteering, he said.

“It was just like a dream come true,” said the board-certified cardiologist and internist. “I said, I guess this was my fate and I have to accept it. I never regretted it one moment.”

After volunteering for just over a year, he was named medical director of the clinic in April 2010 when Chokatos left for personal reasons.

Hirschler said he had a private practice in cardiology and internal medicine for 12 years in San Leandro before working for the state corrections system. He graduated in 1977 from the University of Louis Pasteur medical school in Strasbourg, France. He was an internal medicine resident at Interfaith Medical Center in New York and completed a fellowship in cardiovascular diseases at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago.

Hirschler said he was born in New York to French parents. He speaks Spanish, French and German, and is learning Chinese, he said, joking that the clinic’s diverse clientele “allows me to use my small multi-lingual talents.”

In his first experience with a free clinic, Hirschler said he is also learning to be creative with resources. “The Church has taught me to count on small miracles on a daily basis. I am told we even budget for miracles in addition to the extraordinary generosity of our donors,” Hirschler said.
Clinic business manager Roy Quinata indicated that the clinic treated 3,699 patients in 2010, up slightly over the 3,618 seen in 2009. Of those, the number of new patients dropped by more than 24 percent — from 1,413 in 2009 to 1,067 in 2010 — he indicated. The number of returning patients climbed more than 19 percent, with 2,632 patients in 2010 as compared with 2,205 in 2009.

The clinic at 21st and Harrison streets provides primary medical care and internal medicine for anyone who lacks medical insurance, as well as screenings, lab work, prescriptions and other specialty services through outside providers. Many are treated for chronic ailments, indicated clinic director Dr. Jacques Hirschler.

The majority of clients have lost their jobs in the strained economy, Hirschler said. “We have lawyers, we have real estate brokers, we have nurses — all these individuals who find themselves without health insurance,” he said. “These are not the chronically unemployed.”

The data showed that of the new patients in 2010, 293 were African American, 178 were Asian/Pacific Islander, 286 were Caucasian, 244 were Hispanic and 66 did not self-identify. There were 575 female patients and 492 male patients. Clients come from all over the Bay Area, Hirschler indicated.

Hirschler manages about 42 volunteers, who logged 3,279 hours in 2010, figures showed. They include about a dozen physicians, along with nurses, nurse practitioners, paramedics, interpreters and clerical and administrative volunteers, he said.

Volunteer doctors in Kaiser Health Care’s Operation Access provide procedures and screenings that cannot be done in-house, Hirschler said, including orthopedics, ophthalmology, dermatology and general surgery.

The clinic desperately needs more volunteers, especially doctors, said William McInerney, president of the clinic’s board and a member of the Order of Malta. “Our goal is eventually to be open all five days,” McInerney said; the facilities are only open Monday, Wednesday and part of Friday. “People are not donating as much money or time with health care up in the air,” he added.

The Order of Malta has served the sick and poor since 1048 A.D. Its Western Association U.S.A. funds and operates the clinic, which opened in 2008, McInerney said. The clinic leases its space from the diocese for $1 per year, he said.

Clinic hours are Mondays and Wednesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to noon. Call (510) 587-3000 for an appointment or to volunteer. Interpreters are available.

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