One of a Kind Medical Clinic Seeks Funds to Expand

Winona Silva
Winona Silva
Dr. Robert Koerner
Dr. Robert Koerner

By Diane Ako

PALAMA (KHNL)- If your biggest health care complaint is about the long waiting list to get a doctor's appointment, think about this: what if you didn't have health insurance at all?

10 percent of the people who live in Hawaii have no medical insurance to fall back on, according to a recent survey by the Medicaid State Information System Report HCFA-2082. Workers at Aloha Medical Mission Interim Clinic in Palama are working to change that.

When Winona Silva lost her housekeeping job last year, she was worried. "I have a thyroid condition where I have to take medication for the rest of my life. I didn't know who to go to."

She also has high blood pressure. Without regular doctors visits and pills, it could be life threatening. Yet, she didn't want to go to a charity clinic. Silva says, "I was very embarrassed because I never accepted charity in my life and I've always worked, but because I needed my medication I had to do something drastic."

Desperate, she gave in. "I'm very, very grateful. If it wasn't for Dr. Koerner, I'd be without medicine."

The Aloha Medical Mission's Interim Clinic provides medical and dental service for Hawaii's immigrants, homeless, and underinsured. It's only a temporary fix till people get back on their feet. Clinic Director Dr. Robert Koerner says, "We want to eventually establish them at a health center where they can get continual care."

The staff of 80 is mostly volunteers who come after their day job to give a few hours in the evening. They're paid not in dollars, but smiles. Koerner knows firsthand. "It's the best feeling in the world: not only to see the face of the patients that receive care who would not have received care otherwise, but also the volunteers."

This clinic sees about 2,000 people a day. But doctors say the need is even greater. They want to reach even more people, but could use your help with a donation of labor or money. Silva, now a loyal patient, agrees. "I know a lot of people who are elderly and don't have medical insurance. There's no way they can afford to pay for it."

It costs $140,000 dollars a year to run the clinic. The money comes from private donations. Patients like Silva hope the clinic finds the money to expand. It is, she says, a gift that keeps on giving.