About Tzu Chi Community Clinic, Wilmington
Tzu Chi Community Clinic in Wilmington, Calif., opened its doors in 2010. Tzu Chi USA volunteers had been active in the community for some time, providing distributions of food and winter clothing, as well as medical outreach offering dental care services.
Soon after, a meeting with Dr. El Sayad of St. Mary’s Foundation, a non-profit whose mission includes improving the quality of life for seniors in the area, led to the creation of the clinic. Initially, the plan was to open a senior rehabilitation and adult care center, and St. Mary’s Foundation purchased land with that aim. Tzu Chi USA eventually purchased that land from St. Mary’s and built what would become a clinic as the end goal shifted. Although St. Mary’s is no longer involved, Tzu Chi USA is fulfilling some of the care the foundation hoped to offer seniors in the community.
Of the patients served by the clinic, 70% are seniors. The Wilmington area is home to a large low-income population as well. Tzu Chi Community Clinic specializes in providing dental care and acupuncture services, which are offered at a rate below market value. While health care insurance is accepted, those without it can pay the cash price.
Since 2010, the clinic has seen its patient base grow to around 4,000 individuals and rise steadily. In 2017, there were 2,100 acupuncture and 1,200 dental care visits; in 2018, there were 2,200 and 1,300, respectively. The clinic participates in a community health fair every April and November. Patients can see a dentist or acupuncturist without charge, undergo a hearing screening, and obtain vision care at Tzu Chi USA’s on-site Vision Mobile Clinic. Participation in fairs organized by other local organizations further promotes the clinic’s services throughout the year. The building in which Tzu Chi Community Clinic is housed also acts as the Tzu Chi Service Center for the area, where its charity and other activities are based.
Currently, Tzu Chi partners with the American Red Cross to provide first aid and CPR training. Tzu Chi volunteers work with the City of Los Angeles, offering classes that support emergency preparedness as well. Furthermore, in collaboration with the fire and police departments, they offer Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training. Looking ahead, the clinic hopes to gain Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) status, which would allow offering a sliding scale of cost for medical services. This would complement the overall mission of providing high-quality humanitarian medical care for all neighborhood residents, including more low-income patients.