Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
BY CINDY STAUFFER, Staff Writer
Patch Adams is a doctor and a clown, but he is serious about his vision for the future of health care.
In that future, doctors care for all kinds of patients at a hospital where the staff all live, and where everyone -- from the surgeons to the cleaning staff -- makes the same salary.
In that future, instead of paying for insurance, patients pool their money to build that kind of a hospital, where they can get hugs with their medical care.
In that future, depressed people are uplifted by love and attention instead of psychotropic drugs.
The physician, played by Robin Williams in a 1998 movie named after him, came to town Tuesday in his brightly colored clothes, sporting partially blue hair, a long gray ponytail, purple glasses, an eye-chart tie and a fork earring.
Adams, 67, spoke at the Healthcare Financial Management Association meeting at the Lancaster County Convention Center.
He encouraged empathy and fun among his audience -- accountants, financial managers and others who work in physician offices, hospitals and other health care facilities.
After graduating from medical school in 1971, Adams and some colleagues ran a free, community health care facility called the Gesundheit! Institute, situated in a six-bedroom house in West Virginia. For a dozen years, they lived and worked communally, and they did not charge for care.
Humor, arts and agriculture were part of the institute, which cared for the whole patient.
"It was the first and only silly hospital in history," he said. "We made everything funny. We made living funny. We made dying funny."
Adams said he eventually took his clowning and healing message overseas, to the Soviet Union, Israel and Palestine, and recently to Haiti and Sri Lanka, after natural disasters there.
Adams now wants to build a 40-bed hospital on 310 acres in West Virginia, and he is raising money to create a place where doctors and nurses can immerse themselves in healing, and patients can get free, holistic care.
Health care in this country, he said, is "a vulgar, greedy business" that must be tossed out and redesigned from the ground up, by patients and by doctors.
"The model we have isn't working," he said.
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