| Order of Malta honors champions of clinic
Archbishop Allen Vigneron
Silver Chalice Awards
Allen Vigneron and
When: Oct. 9
Where: St. Francis Yacht Club, San Francisco
Benefits Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California
Tickets from $150 per person
Information and tickets: www.silverchalice
It all started in Lourdes.
The Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California, which offered free health care during 2,400 patient visits in the past year, began over a conversation in the lounge of the Imperial Hotel in Lourdes, France.
That's how Mike Lambert recalls it. During a pilgrimage with the Order of Malta, then-Bishop Allen Vigneron was "very aware of the fact that there was no Catholic health care facility in the Oakland diocese," Lambert said.
Dick Madden, the former CEO of Potlatch Corp., was president of the Northern California group at the time. The Order of Malta was known as the Knights Hospitaller for 900 years.
Bishop Vigneron had a cathedral under construction. His challenge to the order: Operate a clinic at the site across from Lake Merritt.
At the time, the order was supporting about 70 small charities, with more than $1 million in donations. Mercy Retirement and Care Center in Oakland, and several conferences of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul were among the beneficiaries.
"Dick Madden wanted to have a signature program," Lambert said.
There's a Malta Clinic in Los Angeles, Lambert said, as well as a visiting nurse program. But there was "nothing in Northern California that we could say, 'That's us.'"
Until that evening at Lourdes.
"You could see the fire being kindled and the smoke going up," Lambert remembered.
Madden brought the clinic proposal to his board of directors in just a few months. Attorney Bill McInerney was deputized by Madden to organize the effort.
People started pledging.
"The average free clinic has a lifespan of two years, Lambert said. "All the altruism fades when bills start showing up."
Donors' enthusiasm continues at the Malta clinic, which celebrates its sixth year of service. With a small paid staff and a corps of volunteers, the clinic has logged more than 15,000 patient visits since opening in 2008.
Among the 2,400 patient visits to the clinic were slightly more women than men. The patients are diverse: 25 percent white, 25 percent black, 25 percent Hispanic and 25 percent Asian Pacific Islander, Lambert said.
What they have in common: They are adults under the age of 65 who do not have health insurance. The clinic is open 2½-days a week. 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and 8:30 a.m.-noon Friday.
"Part of our business plan is to add Thursday," said Lambert.
The clinic's budget for the coming year is $500,000, with $150,000 from the Order of Malta. The board is responsible for raising the rest. The cost to expand days of service could be an additional $125,000 to $150,000.
The clinic's success is a testament to "the high quality of health care we're able to offer."
"We have patients coming from Santa Rosa, Stockton and San Jose," he said. "If they can get to BART, they can get to the clinic."
Some of the clients may not be documented workers. Some people remain uninsured, despite the Affordable Care Act. "For many of these people, there's no way they can afford insurance," Lambert said. But they are cared for without cost to them at the clinic. "Since it's in a cathedral," Lambert said, "people feel protected."
Some of those patients give testimonials about the clinic in a video that will be shown to guests at the Silver Chalice Awards, which will be Oct. 9 at the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco.
At last year's Silver Chalice Awards, the order honored McInerney as its champion for his dedication to the clinic.
This year, the two men who had that conversation in Lourdes — now-Archbishop Vigneron and Madden — will be honored as champions. The awards will be presented by Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco.
Also in attendance will be Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, who is now an ex-officio member of the board of the clinic.
For information about the dinner, or donating to the clinic, visit www.silverchaliceawardsdinner.com.
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