Caitlin O'Kane 4 days ago
Dr. Omar Atiq opened the Arkansas Cancer Clinic 29 years ago toprovide cancer care to an underserved community in Pine Bluff. He then splithis time between the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Medical Centerand the clinic, becoming very busy.
When he decided to close the clinic last March, he hired anothercompany to collect outstanding payments from patients. That's when he realizedhow much people were paying.
"Just browsing through it, I realized that there werepatients that were paying $10 for months on end or $5 or $50," Atiq toldCBS News. "Patients wanted to pay, but they just didn't have the abilityto pay. And at the same time, the country was in the grip, and still is in thegrip, of the COVID-19 pandemic thathas devastated lives in more ways than one."
Atiq spoke to his wife and kids about it, and they decided theydidn't need the money — his patients did. "Luckily, we were blessed tohave the opportunity to just forego the debt. Just cancel it. So we did,"he said. "We didn't, luckily, need the money, somebody else did. So it wasdone."
Atiq actually did two rounds of debt cancellation in 2020, oncein June and another around Christmas. The second time, he sent a holiday cardto about 200 patients letting them know they no longer had to pay theiroutstanding medical bills.He said he canceled about $650,000 in debt for hiscancer patients. He didn't want attention for the good deed, but he did saymany patients reached out to thank him.