Dr. Omar Atiq is a US oncologist who recently closed his 30-year old cancer treatment center. Based in Arkansas, Dr. Atiq worked with a debt collection center to collect outstanding payments for treatments. In the last few months, this Arkansas doctor realized most of his patients were badly hit by the pandemic and lockdowns and decided to wipe out nearly $ 650,000 in debts for 200 patients.
During the Christmas holidays, Dr. Atiq wrote to his patients that their outstanding debts would be erased.
Talking to ABC’s Good Morning America, Dr. Atiq said how he came to realize many people were just unable to pay. So he and his family thought about how they could help and how much debt could be released. Finally, they decided to go ahead with it.
Arkansas Doctor’s Christmas Miracle
Dr. Atiq is originally from Pakistan and opened his cancer treatment center in 1991. His Arkansas Cancer Clinic is located in Pine Bluff where it provides radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and also CAT scans. Dr. Atiq is a professor now at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette quoted the Arkansas doctor saying how there was no better to do this than in the middle of a pandemic. People’s homes and finances have been decimated and he just wanted to help in any way he could. The Christmas greeting card he sent to the 200 patients read:
“The Arkansas Cancer Clinic was proud to serve you as a patient. Although various health insurances pay most of the bills for majority of patients, even the deductibles and co-pays can be burdensome. Unfortunately, that is the way our health care system currently works. The clinic has decided to forego all balances owed to the clinic by its patients. Happy Holidays.”
Dr. Atiq has been described as a “very caring individual” by the president of the debt collection company with whom the Arkansas doctor collaborated. RMC of America’s Bea Cheeseman described Dr. Atiq as a good client and how wonderful it was of the doctor and family to do this deed. Bea further explained how those with oncology bills have a greater burden than most of the population.
Another one singing Dr. Atiq’s praises was the executive vice president of the Arkansas Medical Society advocacy group, David Wroten. He mentioned that Dr. Atiq had called him to confirm if it was alright by the rulebook for a doctor to forgive such patient debt.
“If you knew Dr. Atiq, you would better understand,” Mr. Wroten said. “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.”
Image credit: Nataliia Kravchuk