CAIRO – Plans to build a Muslim-friendly surgery center to allow women patients to be diagnosed without being worried about being seen by male doctors are sparking controversy in the US city of Chicago.
“I should not have to leave my religion at the door in order to receive health care services,” Gihad Ali of the Arab-American Action Network was quoted as saying by Lake County News-Sun.
Plans were revealed by Muslim resident Naser Rustom to build a Muslim-friendly surgery center in the southwest suburb of Orland Park.
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He applied to the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board to get a certificate to build the 11,000-square-foot center.
He argues that the center, which would include five operating rooms, washing basins and a prayer room, will help tackle modesty concerns raised by Muslim patients, especially women, during surgeries.
He said that many Muslim patients feel uncomfortable of being seen by male doctors while undergoing surgeries.
Rustom said the center would be “the first health care facility in Illinois designed to accommodate the special needs of Muslim-Americans”.
He said that the medical center, however, would be open to both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
The plans, however, were unanimously rejected by the Board on Tuesday.
The board will give a final decision on the Muslim project in June or August.
Chicago has the largest Muslim community in the United States with about 400,000 Muslims live there.
The United States is home to a Muslim community of between six to eight million.
Ali, the Arab-American Action Network, complained that many hospitals fail to take care of Muslim sensitivities.
Speaking to the board, she recalled that her mother, who was diagnosed with cancer, was appalled that she could be seen in various stages of undress by male doctors during her surgery.
She also complained that she had to miss many of her normal five-times-a-day prayers because the hospital had no facilities for ablution.
Ali also said that while the Bible was available in hospital rooms, there was no prayer rug to help Muslim patients perform their prayers.
Supporters say that modesty concerns are preventing many Muslims from seeking medical help.
Joseph Hylak-Reinholtz, the project’s attorney, said two studies concluded that American Muslims have worse health than non-Muslims because of reluctance to go to health care facilities.
But opponents say that the Muslim project would be counterproductive.
They argue that the area has already enough surgery providers to handle all business.
“You would be in a service area that doesn’t really need your services,” said board member James Burden, a physician from Glenview.
Board member Philip Bradley of Springfield agrees.“I don’t think it serves any group to tell them, ‘We want you to have a facility but you have to accept that it is substandard’.”
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