Ann Nallo, Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
The world’s first ever “Patch Adams Free Clinic,” a project that would incorporate alternative healing practices to general medicine might eventually open up in a lot in North Philadelphia’s Nicetown-Tioga neighborhood. The site previously housed a crumbling factory and is located only a few blocks away from Temple University Hospital.
Social visionary Patch Adams himself spoke Wednesday to an audience of about 200 at Mercy Neighborhood Ministries of Philadelphia. Standing a head taller than everyone else in his clown-inspired clothes, he professed his love for all and his enthusiasm for the clinic. Through his two appearances in Philadelphia, he hopes to encourage fundraising for the project.
Adams had a great many messages to impart, on life, love and the quest for happiness, and they were all wrapped into his criticism of the current healthcare system. He said he managed to cut healthcare costs by 90 percent in a makeshift hospital he opened in 1971 Virginia, by foregoing malpractice insurance and third-party payments — and by paying all his staff a salary of $300 a month.
“Every problem in the world today is nested in the capitalist system,” he said.
His comments on systematic greed were well received, but several audience members took issue with his criticism of President Obama’s health care reform. “The one reason that we ended up with Obamacare … is that we didn’t have an imagination,” he said.ye
“I don’t understand why you are saying Obamacare is negative,” said Carol Rogers, director of Healthy Philadelphia. “People have the right to choose what kind of healthcare they want.”
A few audience members heatedly interrogated Free Clinic founder Paul Glover about the project’s execution. Doris Fuller, who has lived in the neighborhood for 60 years and whose house directly faces the site, said she is worried about compost smells and about projects to build an orchard on old factory grounds. “The area is toxic,” she said, adding that the community needed to be reassured it won’t be a short-term project. “Can we get a promise that it will be there in 10 years?”
Glover responded in an email that he planned to address these concerns by not composting on site and planting crops in raised beds. "There are now no voices opposed to the clinic that we know of," he added. During Wednesday's meeting, several community members expressed their enthusiasm. Verna Brown Tyner, president of Tioga United and chief-of-staff to Councilman Bill Greenlee, said she wholeheartedly supported the project. “A lot of our seniors have to choose between medication and eating,” she said.
The clinic would offer free preventative and primary care to all, as well as chiropractic care, massages, acupuncture, dental and optical care for those who volunteer a few hours every year. It would include a “solar-oriented structure,” possibly an Earthship, as well as an edible orchard, gardens, greenhouses, playgrounds and parkland, and should cost about $1.5 million, according to Glover, who hopes to rely heavily on in-kind donations and volunteer work. “We are not bounded within the cage of dollars,” he said.
Glover has a history of successful community organization. Before coming to Philadelphia, he created the Ithaca dollar, a special currency that allows people to barter work hours. He also created the Philly Orchard Project to plant trees in vacant lots. He came to Philadelphia in 2004, seeking “a city with great challenge.”
“We’re not going to force ourselves on any neighborhood…. We will locate where the doors open,” he said.
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