A doctor from the US has helped out 200 of his former patients by forgiving their medical debts, after closing his practice earlier this year.
Oncologist Dr Omar Atiq closed his practice, The Arkansas Cancer Clinic, in March this year, after working in the community for some 29 years.
After closing up shop, Dr Atiq tried to collect payments from some of his former clients, to no avail.
He explained to Good Morning America he realised some people were unable to cover their debts, so after deliberating with her wife, they decided to forgive the debts of some 200 of his former patients.
"We saw that we could do it and then just went ahead and did it," he said.
Dr Atiq’s patients received a greeting card the week of Christmas, explaining their debt had been paid for and that 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,” the card said.
“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.”
Doctor was ‘uncomfortable’ with patients worrying about money
The doctor told Good Morning America some of his patients owed hundreds of dollars, others owed thousands.
In the end, Dr Atiq ended up erasing US$650,000, or roughly AU$842,300, of his patient’s debt and explained since he opened his practise he was always “uncomfortable” with sick patients worrying about money among everything else during their illness.
Working on a sweet story tonight.
Around 200 cancer patients in Pine Bluff got this holiday card a few days ago— Dr. Omar Atiq who founded the Arkansas Cancer Clinic is forgiving all outstanding debts owed by patients.
He says they wiped away bills totaling around $650,000. pic.twitter.com/IHnQ3IAv15
— Hunter Hoagland (@HunterHoagland) December 30, 2020
"I saw patients over the years who just didn’t have anything or who went bankrupt trying to pay for their treatment," he told Good Morning America.
"In many ways it seems like a totally unfair situation."
He said he was thankful he was in a position to cover the debt, especially as the coronavirus pandemic is continuing to devastate the US.
The president of the billing company Dr Atiq worked with to forgive the debt described the doctor as “a very caring individual” and praised him for forgiving the debt.
Good Morning America reported Dr Atiq is now working at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.
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