Currents News Staff
In September of 2019, Dr. Ramón Tallaj met the Pope. He told him about the network of family physicians he’d founded. These doctors belong to the same cultural community as their patients, so they’re able to communicate with them in the language with which they feel most comfortable.
“Our services are geared toward migrants, the poor and the most vulnerable in New York. They come from many different parts of the world,” said Tallaj.
“This solidarity with the sick is a real treasure, and it is a distinctive sign of authentic health care and assistance, which puts the person and his needs at the center,” said the Pope.
Neither of them imagined that the pandemic would make their work indispensable and submit them to unprecedented pressure.
While the streets emptied out, Somos Community Care began looking for ways to help its patients, since for many Latinos and Asians, being quarantined was out of the question.
The organization distributed food and Covid-19 tests, and set up hotlines to answer questions in different languages.
“We’re working with authorities. We have around 20,000 of these kits so they can be used on other people. It’s completely free for our community,” said Tallaj.
Somos Community Care put $30 million from its own savings toward helping the community.
They served 40,000 people a day, administered more than 2 million tests and hundreds of thousands of vaccines. They even covered funeral costs for people who could not afford them.
It was a difficult moment that brought with it a unique faith experience.
“At one point, our people were dying, our doctors too. Twelve of them died, five during that period. And then, on March 26, I told the employees I saw during the day that whenever they got home, be it six in the morning or seven at night, to change, eat and be ready for prayer at 8 p.m. That was the first day. And that’s what we’ve been doing non-stop since. Every day,” said Tallaj.
The doctor thinks that, barring any new unexpected obstacles, the pandemic will likely be overcome soon.
That’s why he’s advocating for preventative medicine, so people don’t have to be hospitalized or receive painful treatment.
“Prevention is very important. Prevention, if we start with today’s young people, will make it so less people have complications with diabetes in the future, or with hypertension or stroke. These problems are those that cause health disasters and economic troubles toward the end of life,” said Tallaj.
That’s the policy of this network of family physicians, which already serves at least 700,000 people in New York.
The pandemic has shown that they are doctors who are unwilling to leave anyone behind.