Written by Shuli Luo
Translated by Mark Wan
Edited by Ida Eva Zielinska
Pacific Clinics offer mental health, substance use treatment, and supportive services to Medi-Cal eligible individuals and families across Los Angeles, Ventura, San Bernardino, and Orange Counties. The behavioral healthcare provider has partnered with Tzu Chi Medical Foundation in the past. After interruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tzu Chi Vision Mobile Clinic returned to the Pacific Clinics Santa Fe Springs location to provide vision care services while stationed there.
A Dream Come True
For many of the patients served by the Tzu Chi Vision Mobile Clinic that day, the care received was a dream come true. While having poor eyesight for twenty years, Jose Campos never saw an ophthalmologist or was fitted for a custom-made pair of prescription glasses because he couldn’t afford to pay for such vision care.
To cope with the issue, Jose relied on drugstore eyeglasses. And, as his vision continued to deteriorate, unable to afford a doctor’s visit for an appropriate prescription, Jose would endure a few weeks of headaches resulting from slowly adjusting to the more powerful generic lens he would get.
Now here arose this occasion to consult an ophthalmologist and get the correct prescription for the first time. After seeing the doctor and a short waiting period during which staff made his eyeglasses, equally surprised and excited, Jose held up two new pairs: One to correct his nearsightedness, the other for reading. He exclaimed somewhat emotionally, “It’s been twenty years, and I’m so glad to finally have prescription glasses.”
Linder Oreb, an octogenarian with lung cancer, was another patient served by the Tzu Chi Vision Mobile Clinic that day. She came with her daughter, who, sadly, had recently suffered a mental breakdown following her child’s suicide. Bravely, Linder dragged her feeble body to drive and pick up her depressed daughter so both could come to the vision care clinic.
The effort was well worth it for this aging mother and daughter, one fragile physically and the other mentally. Thanks to this unprecedented opportunity, there would be something to rejoice in and be grateful for finally: Improved eyesight thanks to prescription glasses made while they waited.
Tzu Chi’s Vision Care is Vital
On the same day, Herman Corteza, Corporate Director of Community Integration Services at Pacific Clinics, met Dr. William Keh, Board Director of Tzu Chi Medical Foundation. The latter had come to donate a large batch of hand sanitizers. Corteza expressed his organization’s thanks for the vision care services Tzu Chi provides and the personal protective supplies (PPE) given freely to patients during these challenging pandemic times.
Dr. Keh acknowledged the appreciation then focused on why Tzu Chi’s vision care services are vital. “It’s known to all that, owing to the exorbitant expenses in the American medical industry, it is not very easy for a low-income patient to see a doctor,” he said.
“Prescribing a pair of glasses not only involves a large payment to the doctor but also requires paying for materials used for the manufacturing of the glasses. What an expenditure! Which is precisely why the majority of low-income individuals just go to the market to pick up the cheapest pairs of eyeglasses to deal with vision issues,” Dr. Keh explained. And now, Tzu Chi is trying to change all that, one outreach at a time.
Dr. Boxi You, a vision care specialist affiliated with Tzu Chi Vision Mobile Clinic operations, elaborated on expanding services in Southern California. Following the Tzu Chi Medical Foundation’s application for and subsequent attainment of Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike designation in November 2020, the focus of services was re-oriented somewhat:
However, because of its partnership with community charity groups or medical organizations for outpatient service, whenever the Vision Mobile Clinic operates, its volunteer staff inevitably encounters some patients who have no health insurance at all. As it’s Tzu Chi’s mission to provide care to whoever urgently needs it, for patients without coverage, a “slider fee” that’s reasonable and affordable will apply. In an extreme case that a patient still can’t afford a deductible, Tzu Chi may reduce or forgive some or all of the patient’s obligation.
Such an approach helps ensure that all who come seeking vision care will have the opportunity to receive it. With your love and support, we can continue to expand the reach of such services, bringing relief that can feel like a dream come true.