Allegheny West: Medical Care Made Accessible to Empower Community
Miriam Medical Clinic, a faith-based health care clinic founded in 2014, is reducing the societal barriers to access of medical care by empowering communities through physical and spiritual healing.
Located in the heart of the Allegheny West neighborhood, the clinic provides a vast range of medical care, from physical examinations, pediatrics, podiatry and dental services, to gynecologic, dermatitis and blood and urine tests.
The Miriam Clinic began as a ministry initiative by Pastor James Buck of Berean Baptist Church to provide holistic health care to the Allegheny West community.
“We had been looking for a home for some time before we actually opened our doors,” said Dr. Cornelius Pitts, the pharmacist at the clinic. “We had been in the planning stage for about three years until Pastor James Buck came to us with this building.”
Originally functioning as a community center, the building was turned into a clinic to provide access to holistic healthcare for the residents of Allegheny West. Miriam Medical Clinic, in association with its parent organization, World Gospel Mission, promotes accessibility to medical care in to improve the health and well being of communities in Philadelphia.
“Our mission is combining physical health with the spiritual aspect of a persons existence,” stated Pitts. “In this particular neighborhood, the need for access to health care that has integrity is important, and that is where we come in.”
Health care in Philadelphia, specifically in inner city neighborhoods, has been lacking as far as access and affordability. Throughout communities within Philadelphia, free health clinics are becoming popular and well received among residents.
“In underserved neighborhoods, there is a need for access to health care, particularly when individuals have found it difficult to navigate the health care system,” stated Pitts. “Insurance issues are absolutely onerous, and when individuals don’t have access to appropriate insurance or they don’t have anyone to advocate for them, it is difficult to navigate the system.”
Unlike larger institutions, Miriam Medical Clinic provides local and personal care for residents in Allegheny West. Miriam uses a community-oriented approach to health and community development, such as providing home visits to the sick and shut-in.
“If a person comes in from the neighborhood and says my mom is home sick, we will go down to there house and see their mom,” stated Sandra Johnson, the administrator and treasurer at the clinic.
Miriam has helped facilitate the medical needs of residents in the community, from calling multiple pharmacies about the medications of patients, to assisting the elderly by taking them into Center City to get their blood drawn. The physicians and pharmacists at the clinic all volunteer their services and time to benefit the Allegheny West community.
“We found a need here at Miriam to actually advocate for our patients, patients who might find the health care at large institutions intimidating, and difficult to gain access to the appropriate type of health care,” said Pitts.
Miriam provides a comfortable atmosphere for residents, 97.5 percent of whom are African-American, to receive care.
“There is a great disparity in healthcare in the African-American community,” stated Johnson.
Miriam Medical Clinic is helping the Allegheny West community overcome the barriers to access of proper medical care by offering free treatment.
“We meet the needs of people who are not insured,” stated Johnson. “Even with the Affordable Care Act, there are many people that are uninsured, or they have insurance with large deductibles and co-payments.”
The social and medical support that Miriam Medical Clinic provides to the community is imperative when 34 percent of the population of Allegheny West lives below the poverty level. Offering affordable and accessible medical care to the community has been imperative to the work of Miriam Medical Clinic.
– Text, video and images by Mariama Taifa-Seitu.