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Family health center opens in Flushing

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Costumed lions danced through an office building on Main Street last week to welcome a new clinic designed to provide better health care to Asian immigrants.

Elmhurst Hospital Center and the Tzu Chi Foundation held opening ceremonies March 12 for their Tzu Chi Elmhurst Hospital Family Health Center in downtown Flushing.

"Our purpose is to offer medical services to those traditionally denied health services," said Jackson Chen, executive director of the eastern region of the American branch of the Tzu Chi foundation.

Located on the second floor of 41-60 Main St., the clinic will provide a large range of services which include internal medicine, geriatric and pediatric care, women's health, mental health counseling and dental screenings. It is expected to start accepting patients in about a week.

The center caters to Asian immigrants, many of whom are poor and struggle to pay for health care. The clinic helps pay for the care for those who have no health insurance, said Lorinda Chen, the director of the center. The staff speaks English, an array of Chinese dialects and Korean, and the services of the clinic

"The staff members are all bilingual," Lorinda Chen said. "[The patients] will all find it very convenient."

Founded in 1966 and based in Taiwan, the Tzu Chi Foundation is an international charitable organization, operating in 28 countries. Based on Buddhist teachings, the foundation runs clinics around the world.

The clinic is the first Tzu Chi clinic in the New York metro area. The group has a similar clinic in Los Angeles.

The opening of the clinic marked the culmination of a partnership between Elmhurst Hospital Center and the Tzu Chi Foundation.

For five years, the two organizations have operated a van on Main Street, providing basic care on Saturdays.

But the two groups decided a one-day-a-week van simply was not enough to take care of the growing health care needs of Flushing's immigrant population.

The city's Asian immigrant population suffers health problems at a higher rate than the average New Yorker because they often cannot afford decent health care, health professionals at the center said.

The 10 examinations rooms of the 5,000-square-foot clinic will be staffed by three doctors, a social worker, two nurses, and a patient care associate.

"We really have a dream team," said Ricky Wong, project coordinator for the center.

Dr. Benjamin Chu, president of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation, which runs Elmhurst Hospital Center, said too many immigrants only seek care in times of crisis.

"They come to the Elmhurst emergency room instead of a place like this," Chu said, "so often the hospital is a place where people start getting the care they need, and that doesn't have to happen."

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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