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Working Lives Treating the needy is one doctor’s duty

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Harry Keaney

In the ruthless world of managed health care, Kevin Maloney is a general practitioner who manages to care for some of those least able to afford it.

Every Friday evening, when he finishes meeting patients at his regular family practice in Mamaroneck, N.Y., he goes to a school auditorium at nearby Holy Trinity Church, where he operates St. Rita’s Free Medical Clinic, which he started in 1991. There he attends to patients’ in need, many without health insurance, some of whom would probably, in time, become so sick they would have to be rushed to a hospital emergency room.

"Then they’d get hit with a huge bill that they couldn’t pay and a collection agency would come after them," Maloney said.

A third-generation Irish American whose ancestors came from Cork and Clare, Maloney said that he named the clinic after his mother.

"It makes me feel good to do it," Maloney said of his work. "I just go there and take care of patients."

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The clinic, which attracts needy patients from throughout Westchester, as well as from Connecticut and the Bronx, is supported entirely by donations, and by the help of volunteers, including nurses. It is open to people of all religions and backgrounds. Medical equipment is set up Friday afternoons behind a curtain on a stage, and removed after about 10 p.m., when the last patient is seen.

The clinic buys all of its own equipment and medicine. It also provides food, clothing and toys for the poor.

Patients may receive physical examinations, X-rays, EKGs, eye exams, hearing and pulmonary tests, bloodwork and medications for no charge. Without the clinic, some poor children wouldn’t get vaccinated or obtain their shots for school.

Asked who pays if patients have to obtain medicine by prescription from a pharmacy, Maloney said he tries to give medications and antibiotics, but, occasionally, he has to give prescriptions.

Maloney is among those who does not like the direction in which modern medicine is going. "You have to be a businessman, which I am not," he said. "I hate that aspect of medicine. When I’m at the clinic, it helps me realize why I became a doctor."

Maloney is of the opinion that the personal touch has "gotten lost in the bureaucracy of medicine."

"Everything is cost containment mandated by the insurance companies and the HMOs," he said. "Medicine has become so businesslike. The shift is off patient care and more on cost containment."

Maloney was born in Brooklyn 47 years ago and began studying medicine in Guadalajara, Mexico. He subsequently transferred to Albert Einstein Medical College in New York, graduating in 1980. "I saw no reason to specialize, I like general medicine," he said.

There are many who admire Maloney, seeing his work at St. Rita’s as a practical expression of giving, both in time and expertise, and in an area, medicine, where so much payment is now sought for various treatments. The pastor of Holy Trinity Church, Fr. Joseph Irwin, described Maloney as "a very caring person who provides a valuable service to the community."

"We are a very pro-life parish and we are very proud to support the sanctity of life," Fr. Irwin said, adding that he considered Maloney’s clinic to be an extension of the respect for and defense of life.

Brigid O’Brien of Mamaroneck, a patient of Maloney’s, is one of the volunteers at St. Rita’s Clinic. "He is caring, he sees every human being as like a member of his family, he is so nice," she said.

Maloney himself seems to endure a punishing schedule. He commutes from his home in Pennsylvania, sharing his regular adult and pediatric family practice in Mamaroneck with Dr. Hank Wagner. In addition to attending the needy who visit St. Rita’s Clinic, Maloney is the father of five boys, ranging in age from 2 to 13.

"It’s positive stress," he said. "It keeps me energized, and I have a good time."

An understatement, perhaps, but then, Maloney is living testimony to the fact that, when it comes to benevolence, quiet action speaks more profoundly than eloquent words.

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