Doctor Omar Atiq is an oncologist who has been treating cancer patients since 1991 when he first opened his doors to the Arkansas Cancer Clinic, in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Since then, thousands of patients have been treated at his clinic. The clinic provides an array of cancer treatments ranging from chemotherapy and radiation therapy, to diagnostics such as CAT scans.
Unfortunately, all that changed last March when the clinic after nearly 3 decades closed its doors for good.
The clinic still had over $650,000 in outstanding bills from their patients. That’s when the Doctor Atiq thought maybe there was a way to forgive the debt.
“Over time I realized that there are people who just are unable to pay. So my wife and I, as a family, we thought about it and looked at forgiving all the debt. We saw that we could do it and then just went ahead and did it,” Atiq said. “We thought there was not a better time to do this than during a pandemic that has decimated homes, people’s lives and businesses and all sorts of stuff.”
VIDEO: Arkansas Doctor Forgives $650K of Cancer Patients' Debt— Sarah Kirsch (@SarahKirsch5) January 3, 2021
…” Arkansas Cancer Institute after 29 years of dedicated service is closing & its founder, Dr. Oma Atiq decided to forego all the medical debts of his 200 patients in Pine Bluff, Arkansas…” https://t.co/zqsLgr1Sap
The clinic hired a billing company to begin cancelling the medical bills of over 200 patients who still owed the clinic for medical services rendered. Doctor Atiq was assured that no patient would suffer a negative credit score or any type of financial repercussion due to the medical write-off.
When the doctor first had the idea to forgive the debt, he called David Wroten, executive vice president of a physician advocacy group called Arkansas Medical Society, for his opinion.
“When he called me, he wanted to make sure there was nothing improper about doing it,” Wroten said. “I can’t, for the life of me, imagine there would be.”
Wroten continued, “If you knew Dr. Atiq, you would better understand. First, he is one of the smartest doctors I have ever known, but he is also one of the most compassionate doctors I have ever known.”
“He truly has a heart-felt love affair with the patients who he has seen. He has gotten as much from his patients as they have gotten from him.”
In the spirit of the holiday season, Doctor Atiq and his staff decided to contact his 200 patients through a holiday greeting card, informing them they no longer owed the clinic.
The holiday card read: “I hope this note finds you well. The Arkansas Cancer Clinic was proud to serve you as a patient. Although various health insurances pay most of the bills for the majority of patients, even the deductibles and co-pays can be burdensome. Unfortunately, that is the way our health care system currently works. Arkansas Cancer Clinic is closing its practice after over 29 years of dedicated service to the community. The clinic has decided to forego all balances owed to the clinic by its patients. Happy Holidays.”
Doctor Atiq is originally from Pakistan, but decided to move his family to Arkansas in 1991 after receiving a job offer from Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff.
“It is really fate,” Atiq said. “We have been very grateful. “This has been home for a long time. We are grateful for the opportunity for what has happened to our lives here.”
“I believe the opportunities that have come my way are, in part, because of where I am.”