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Malta Clinic is life saver for patients who can’t pay

Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle

Photo: Michael Macor, The Chronicle

From the San Francisco Chronicle, Otis R. Taylor, Jr.

Fred Pons has knobby knuckles and the coarse hands of a jack-of-all-trades handyman.

The El Sobrante resident is a house painter, but when he’s not painting, he does odd jobs like landscaping to make ends meet.

Landscaping is how he got the spider bite this summer.

He was bitten on a Wednesday evening as he cleared wood chips from a yard in Berkeley. His hand and forearm swelled so that he looked like Popeye after scarfing down a can of spinach. He felt as if his hand was under a heating lamp. And he had a fever.

But instead of going to the emergency room, Pons gambled with his health. He has no health insurance and was afraid he’d struggle to pay any medical bills if he sought emergency help.

So, he waited until Friday morning to get medical help.

That’s when he went to the Order of Malta Clinic of Northern California, a free clinic in Oakland that’s open Monday, Wednesday and Friday for walk-ins, and Tuesday for appointments.

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