An oncologist has lifted the crushing weight of medical debt off the shoulders of almost 200 cancer patients in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
Dr. Omar Atiq founded the Arkansas Cancer Institute in 1991 and his clinic recently sent out a special holiday greeting to his patients, according to Fox 16.
The letter read:
I hope this note finds you well. The Arkansas Cancer Clinic was proud to serve you as a patient. Although various health insurances pay most of the bills for majority of patients, even the deductibles and co-pays can be burdensome. Unfortunately, that is the way our health care system currently works. Arkansas Cancer Clinic is closing its practice after over 29 years of dedicated service to the community. The clinic has decided to forego all balances owed to the clinic by its patients. Happy Holidays.
Dr. Atiq said because this year has been so challenging, it brings him great joy to help his patients with their finances.
“Being sick is hard, having cancer is harder, and having Cancer in this pandemic is devastating,” he commented.
The clinic had outstanding patient bills totaling about $650,000, the doctor told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
“We thought there was not a better time to do this than during a pandemic that has decimated homes, people’s lives and businesses and all sorts of stuff,” he noted, adding, “We just thought we could do it, and we wanted to, so we went ahead and did it.”
A billing company helped the clinic cancel the patients’ debt.
“If you knew Dr. Atiq, you would better understand,” said David Wroten, executive vice president of the Arkansas Medical Society.
“First, he is one of the smartest doctors I have ever known, but he is also one of the most compassionate doctors I have ever known,” Wroten explained.
Dr. Atiq said the clinic had the outstanding debt partly because “we have never refused to see a patient.”
“Not for lack of health insurance or funds nor for any other reason,” he noted. “I’ve always considered it a high honor and privilege to be someone’s physician — more important than anything else.”