SUNNY CAL JOURNAL - Patch Adams Was Bigger Than Life, Envisioned Better Health Care


By Bob Weaver

I met Patch Adams (above), the founder of the Gesundheit Institute in Pocahontas County, WV, in the 1980s, inviting him to be a speaker at a conference on addiction.

He gave an entertaining performance with a somber message about the state of health care in America, saying the delivery system is far removed from allowing physicians to deliver the kind of care patients need, at the time a new layer of Managed Care had risen its head, with more money being spent on paperwork than the care itself.

Adams long promoted a system of health care that would integrate a traditional hospital with alternative medicine, a kind of care that relies on humor and play, which he saw as essential to physical and emotional health.

The physician, comedian, social activist, clown, and author was well known around the world, and a motion picture called "Patch Adams" was released starring the late Robin Williams.

The Gesundheit Institute envisioned a free, full-scale hospital and health care eco-community, integrating traditional and alternative medicine, based on compassion.

Unfortunately, it never happened.

His beliefs about the nation's health system were controversial, and the establishment simply labeled him as a zany hippie who wanted more socialism.

He was far more than that.