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New facility offers health care to expanding refugee population

Mike Desmond/WBFO News

Health care for refugees and immigrants on the West Side is expanding, with the new Catholic Charities Health Care Center.

It's in the old Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church at Herkimer and Albany, with a school for the newcomers across the street in the old parish school. Most of the landmark interior of the church has been kept, from the altar baldachino to the stained glass windows, while offices and medical examination rooms have been built in the old church nave.

"It is very, very important because you're kind of ground zero of refugees here in the West Side," said Father Quilin Bouzi, pastor of nearby Holy Angels Church.

"And, you've got the services. That's what they're doing, no matter where you come from, what color you are, what religion you are, they help.  It's very, very important to be here on the West Side of Buffalo."

A native of Haiti, Father Bouzi says many come to him for advice and help and dealing with the culture shock of moving to America.

Medical care comes from Mobile Primary Acre. Medical Director Doctor James Collins says caring for the patients is different and the same.
"Mothers take care of their babies and all of the problems that I see, very few of them are actually foreign to me," Collins said.

"They come in with all the complaints that anybody in the West has, hypertension, diabetes, back pain, headaches, stomach aches. Women get pregnant. Babies fall and hurt themselves."

Doctor Collins says there is recognition of cultural sensitivities about male doctors caring for women or female doctors caring for men and there are accommodations. The center also offers services from Baker Victory Dental Center.

Catholic Charities resettles up to 600 refugees each year and provides services for 400 more on this Immigration and Refugee Assistance Program campus.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.