RCCA volunteers wait for patients to arrive. Back row: Dr. Rabiya Zaman and Cindy Ghabayen. Front row: Mohammad Abbasi and Myra Rana.
The Red Crescent Clinic of Alabama (RCCA) is in the business of saving lives.
“We’ve had several people who’ve come here that if they hadn’t come to the clinic in six months, they would have been dead or in the hospital with serious problems,” said Cindy Ghabayen, one of the two volunteer nurses at the Hoover clinic.
It does not have limitless supplies, but RCCA does much for anyone in need of medical attention, especially for those who lack medical insurance.
RCCA is one of the few free medical clinics in Hoover and the only religious-based clinic in Birmingham.
Since its opening in March, it has welcomed patients from all over the state, including Calera, Troy, Oneonta, Anniston and Gadsden, as well as from foreign countries. When people have sick family visiting from other countries, they take them to RCCA.
Located in the Hoover Crescent Islamic Center on Hackberry Lane, RCCA is run completely by volunteers. Ghabayen said the clinic does not advertise much, and many of the patients do not have connections to the mosque. She attributes word-of-mouth publicity to the geographically diverse clientele.
“People needed to be taken care of,” said Tanveer Patel, 43-year-old founding member and vice president of RCCA. “They [have] Cooper Green and other things, but it [is] not enough. We thought that this was one good way to service the community.”
The staff includes medical and pre-med students, certified physicians and nurses, and people who just want to help.
. In November 2011, Patel, who is also the CEO of health-care consulting firm Concert Care, decided to utilize the professional talents of the Birmingham Muslim community.
And the work these primarily Muslim volunteers do for the community is coming around full circle.
Mohammad Abbasi, a 21-year-old RCCA volunteer and rising senior at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, said the overall reaction has been immensely positive.
“Lots of people who come for the health care have never been to the [mosque] before [or] ever interacted with Muslims before, [and they are] seeing that, as a community, we are willing to engage with American society and Alabama society,” Abassi said.
The clinic is a collaborative effort by the Birmingham Islamic Society and the Alabama chapter of the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America.
Completely booked most Sundays, RCCA sees patients with anything from allergies and hypertension to diabetes and prescription refills. But their biggest challenge remains their inability to provide everything for patients, according to Dr. Rabiya Zaman, one of the four volunteer doctors at RCCA.
As RCCA awaits more resources and volunteers, it strives to better serve patients with what it has.
Recently, the clinic became paperless, gained a pediatric physician, started giving free medicine samples to patients and providing free basic blood work. LabCorp provides the clinic with blood work at discounted rates.
Cooper Green Mercy Hospital also works with RCCA as a referral resource. However, patients must be from Jefferson County to get a referral to the hospital. Sometimes it takes months before a patient gets a consultation with a specialist there, according to Zaman.
Despite struggles, Zaman said the most rewarding part of volunteering at RCCA is seeing how her help and diagnoses can change people’s lives.
“I can provide them with consultations free of cost and recommend what medicines I think that they need or [recommend] where they need to go,” Zaman said. “I cannot make them get insurance, but that is something I can help [with].”
Ghabayen said she enjoys building relationships with people she might have otherwise never known. For her, volunteering makes her more appreciative of her health and that she can afford to buy health insurance.
The clinic hopes to expand its hours on Saturdays and eventually have a full-time clinic in three to five years, according to Patel. Having its own location by next year is also one of Patel’s goals.
And Patel has even bigger aspirations for all of Birmingham’s clinics.
“I think it would be very good if the free clinics could come together and collaborate with each other, and share our resources because we’re all doing it for free.”
Red Crescent Clinic of Alabama, located at 2524 Hackberry Lane, is open Sundays from 2 to 6 p.m. For more, call 879-4247, ext. 4 or visit redcrescentalabama.org.