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Podiatrist reaches out to provide foot care

Dr. Richard L. Sawicki has helped healing the feet of the less fortunate for almost four years at Niagara Cerebral Palsy.

He has his own office in Niagara Falls but also holds a foot care clinic on alternate Thursdays at 9812 Lockport Road.

Sawicki said he needed to open such a clinic because state regulations will not allow him to see patients receiving Medicaid in his office. And he stressed that he sees many, many patients, not just those diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

>How many years have you been helping out the feet of the less fortunate at Niagara Cerebral Palsy?

We started the Podiatry Clinic in January of 2003 at Niagara Cerebral Palsy because there were people who were underserved in the community and needed foot care that didn't have access to it at a private office. It is handicapped-accessible there, so we started the clinic there. [It's] open to the public.

>How many hours a week do you spend working for Niagara Cerebral Palsy?

We have the clinic there that meets from 1 to 5 p.m. every other Thursday, and I've been spending twice a month there Thursday afternoon. . . . Initially, it was just once a month. Then we went to twice a month, and so far we've been able to handle the load, working with two nurses and an assistant. [To make an appointment, call 297-1478, extension 154.]

>What is the most common problem your patients from NCP face?

Most common problem is it's difficult to take care of their feet themselves. And a lot of people come in for basic care, their nails or callouses, heel pains, a lot of contractures due to physical disabilities that we need to get stretching exercises going for them. I would think that's probably the most common, and then we see our share of ingrown toenails and plantar warts and the basic things that the general community would see in a private office.

>Why do you do it?

We do this because there's a lot of consumers that need the care that don't have access to it otherwise. A lot of podiatrists can't see Medicaid patients in their office because of New York State regulations . . . so that they can only be seen in a clinic setting.

>How are NCP consumers different from your other patients?

It's just that they have different types of insurance that doesn't allow them to come into our office, so they call our office here. . . . Niagara Cerebral Palsy does not just treat cerebral palsy patients, either. We see a variety of people from the community. Our care accessibility is open to the public so there's not restrictions to who can come there. But it is available because we have the handicapped- accessibility.

A lot of the patients have types of disabilities that we see not only with cerebral palsy, which can be a spastic condition or a flacid condition, where there's muscles being affected due to neurological problems. But we see all kinds of handicaps. We have a variety of people coming in for foot care in wheelchairs due to previous polio conditions or other types of conditions where they've had injuries in automobile accidents. I don't find that these people are any more difficult to take care of. In fact, they're some of my most enjoyable patients that I see because they're so appreciative, a lot of them.

>Where else would families go to get help for their loved ones?

There is another Medicaid clinic that I also administer at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center at the Mizer Clinic.

>What kinds of prices do you charge at your clinic?

The clinic has the same prices that are charged anywhere else in any other type office depending on the procedure, and they're paid by a fee schedule set by the insurance companies. It doesn't matter what we charge, they're going to pay us a certain amount, and that is the amount that we accept from the clinic.

>What if somebody asks to see you at the clinic on a different day?

We only have the ability [alternate Thursdays] because the nurses that assist me also assist the dental clinic, they assist the audiologist there, the therapists, the wheelchair clinic. We're flexible and they are, too. If someone's having a problem and needs to be seen, I will make myself available for them.

>How many patients do you have at your Niagara Cerebral Palsy clinic?

I don't know exactly how many are going to the podiatry clinic total, although the Cerebral Palsy clinic told me last year they provided 3,500 to 4,000 services to our consumers through all of the clinics, including podiatry, dental, audiology and wheelchair, etc.


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