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Although Ann Arbor has one of the highest numbers of doctors per capita in the country, this city is not an easy place to obtain health care. Good health care is even more difficult to find.

There is a sizeable number of private doctors in the city but finding one that suits your financial abilities is difficult. Perhaps you'II find a doctor who was highly recommended to you and who only charges $15 or $20 for the initial visit. Then you've got waiting lists to deal with; you might find that an appointment can be made, but in three months from now.

The private doctor route is not a recommended one. It is wiser to keep to clinics of some sort, although there is no guarantee that you'II get satisfactory health care. There are ways though in which you can help yourself obtain good health care. The key is to ask a lot of questions. Don 't let a medical term slip by you without your full understanding of it. Doctors often confuse their patients by using technical phrases in describing an illness; always ask for an explanation. Don't be afraid to look at your chart; you have every right to do so. You don't have to sneak a look either; ask your doctor if you can see what he's just written.

Doctors often make a lot of money doing unnecessary tests and operations (yes!) on unknowing patients. It is important to be aware of the reasons a doctor is doing something, whether it be giving you a blood test, taking an x-ray, or performing a hysterectomy. Doctors are responsible to the patient; the patient has a right to know why something is being done to her/him. The patient also has a right to refuse a request by a doctor if he/she thinks it uncalled for.

The following is a description of the available health care facilities in Ann Arbor:

UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL OUTPATIENT CLINIC consists of a Medicine walk-in Clinic (on the third floor of the outpatient building, open Monday-Friday 9-3:30pm) and Specialty Clinics. You need a referral from a doctor to be admitted to one of the specialty clinics. Either a phone call or a letter from another doctor will do.

ST. JOE'S WALK IN CLINIC is located at St. Joseph's Mercy Hospital. Appointments are not needed but the waits are considerably long. It is open from 6-10 pm on Mondays through Fridays. There is a $10 fee upon registering which does not include the additional physician's fees and medication costs. This facility was established by St. Joe's upon pressure from the county to offer services (inexpensive and accessible) to the community at large. Obviously, their $10 minimum fee makes them a less than accessible facility. Keeping in mind their agreement that the clinic serve the needy community, they have said that they will not insist on payment of bills. Patients are of course asked to pay but they will not bring the bills to a collection agency if you refuse to pay them. When you register, identification is not required.

UNIVERSITY HEALTH SERVICE is free for students on a walk-in basis. (Certain clinics are exceptions.) It is open Mondays to Fridays 8-5 pm.

SUMMIT MEDICAL CENTER is a general medicine clinic which serves certain low income geographic areas. PACKARD COMMUNITY CLINIC (3174 Packard) is a model cities project which will serve anyone and operates on a sliding scale basis. It also has a dental clinic.

The FREE PEOPLES CLINIC provides a radical alternative to the traditional medical establishment. Largely volunteer staffed, it is located on 225 E. Liberty. The services include general medicine, gynecology, gay advocacy, and nutrition, birth control, abortion, and venereal disease counseling. The official policy of the clinic is that it does not admit students... But they are aware of the problems students might encounter at health service and are flexible. The doors are open at 6:30 pm on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The clinic takes a limited load of 10 patients per night and has extensive resources for referral to other facilities. There are trained advocates who are willing to accompany patients to other hospitals or clinics, for assurance of satisfactory health care. There is no charge for any of these services.