A clinic which provides free medical services for Cambridge's alienated youth came under fire at last night's City Council meeting.
Since it opened in April, 1968, the Cambridgeport Medical Center has run up an unpaid bill of $15,000 for laboratory services provided by the Cambridge City Hospital and City Councillor Thomas W. Danehy wanted to know why the City Hospital didn't stop such services to the clinic.
"Why should we continue to provide services to hippie patients? This is what I call a deadbeat account," Danehy said. For some 20 minutes, he grilled Dr. James Hartgering, the City's Commissioner of Health, Hospitals, and Welfare, about the unpaid bills and the operation of the free clinic.
Hartgering replied that he did not know the details of the clinic's operation, that the City Hospital's only connection with the clinic was to provide lab services for it, and that he was trying to work out an arrangement for payment of the bills.
A group of Harvard and M.I.T. physicians founded the clinic-located at 10 Mt, Auburn St-in order to provide medical services to those who would otherwise not get them-either because they could not afford them. or because they did not feel welcome in most hospitals.
"There was a definite understanding that the lab bills were negotiable. We are willing to pay the real cost of the services." the clinic's director. Dr. Joseph H. Brenner. an M.I.T. staff psychiatrist, said in an interview last night. Although the City Hospital was charging commercial rates for the lab services, he said, the hospital had generally co-operated with the clinic.
"This is a service for the people of Cambridge. Many hospitals have become huge, unwieldy, and impersonal. The welcome for the patient is sometimes not as warm as it should be particularly if he is dressed strangely and identified with the hippie community or alienated youth," Brenner said.
Currently, 20 doctors and 13 nurses work without pay at the clinic, which serves some 150 patients during the five evenings it is open each week. Nearly 90 per cent of the patients are between the ages of 18 and 23; two-thirds give Cambridge addresses.
Most of the clinic's patients come in for treatment of routine injuries and illnesses. Brenner said: drug cases are few. By agreement with City authorities, the names of drug patients are kept confidential, although all cases of infections discusses are reported as required by law, he added.
On some mornings, the clinic provides its building to the City-free of charge-for a pediatric clinic, Brenner noted.
The clinic has annual operating expenses of about $19,000 for medicines, cleaning and secretarial help; the expenses are paid for by a grant from the Field Foundation.
Harvard doctors who have volunteered their services to the clinic include Dr. Robert Coles '50, lecturer on Education, and Dr. Chase N. Peterson '52, dean of Admissions and Financial Aid.