The RotaCare Pittsburg Free Medical Clinic at St. Vincent de Paul provides the uninsured in Contra Costa County with high-quality, free medical care. Every week, volunteer medical professionals from across the County gather at the St. Vincent de Paul Family Resource Center in Pittsburg to help those without insurance. Whether the patient is experiencing homelessness, unable to afford insurance, or someone visiting the country from abroad, the clinic helps them without reservation or judgement. The care provided at the free medical clinic could not happen without a dedicated, compassionate medical director, and the clinic is lucky to have that in Dr. Jane Hewitt.
“We see a lot of people who have slipped through the cracks and need medical care,” Dr. Hewitt said. “Many have not received medical care in five years or more. We treat their pain, educate them on how to live healthier, and really change their lives. I’m extremely grateful to be able to take part in making that difference in peoples’ lives. The people we help are so grateful, it’s hard not to have that move you when someone tells you how much you’ve helped them.”
Anthony Almacen, whose name has been changed to protect his privacy, is a patient at the free medical clinic. Anthony works as a day-laborer, and has no medical insurance. He does not make enough money to afford medical insurance. He came to the clinic when he was experiencing extreme abdominal pain. After an ultrasound and several tests, he was diagnosed with diabetes.
“I feel so much better now, after coming to the free clinic at St. Vincent de Paul,” Anthony said. “I feel lucky a place like this exists. The doctors and nurses here are all so kind and patient. They even provide interpreters so you can actually talk to your doctor. You can feel that they care. I feel very heard when I talk to the doctors and nurses here.”
Dr. Hewitt became the medical director of the free medical clinic in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. She said she feels lucky to have such a talented support system in the volunteers and staff at the free medical clinic. Dr. Hewitt said it was a challenge to make changes during the pandemic to ensure they could still deliver treatment to those in need. The introduction of remote care options has allowed the clinic to expand its reach to people dealing with disabilities and those experiencing transportation challenges, as well as allowed the volunteer medical professionals to stay safe.
“During the pandemic, it took a lot of creativity to figure out how we could deliver care to people while also keeping our mostly retired volunteer medical staff protected and healthy,” Dr. Hewitt said. “We have been able to implement an electronic medical records system, which has allowed us to implement remote care via Telehealth. It’s a huge help, and it will allow us to attract volunteer medical professionals who are still wary about face-to-face treatment.”
Dr. Hewitt said she feels like she has divided her life into thirds. She said she spent the first 30 years of her life studying, the second 30 years working and raising her family, and now she would like to spend the next 30 years devoted to God and helping those in need.
Barb Hunt, development director at SVdP recognizes Dr. Hewitt’s unique contributions. “Dr. Hewitt is so caring and compassionate – in addition to being a gifted physician. The quality of care patients receive from Dr. Hewitt and the clinic overall is of exceptional quality. The community is so fortunate that medical professionals like Dr. Hewitt have chosen to give back. Can you imagine where you would go if you had no medical insurance? The options are limited for the uninsured and usually too expensive for low-income neighbors to afford. Many uninsured people just go without receiving needed medical care.
“I have been a volunteering at the free medical clinic since 2012, and it’s been a huge blessing in my life,” Dr. Hewitt said. “Upon retiring, I tell everyone I slept for a year. After that year, I decided to take the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius. The Ignatius exercises require you to perform some form of volunteer service. I met a retired nurse volunteer from the clinic, Angela Rivello, and she told me about the free medical clinic. It sounded like a wonderful opportunity to help people with the skillset I developed over the course of my career.”
The free medical clinic is a partnership between SVdP and RotaCare Bay Area and is always in need of additional volunteers. Please contact Clinic Operations Manager Yazmin Mejia, firstname.lastname@example.org if you can volunteer.