PINE BLUFF, Ark.—A doctor in Pine Bluff is forgiving debt for nearly 200 of his patients with cancer.

Dr. Omar Atiq is an oncologist who founded the Arkansas Cancer Institute in Pine Bluff in 1991.

On Monday, his clinic sent out a holiday greeting to patients that read, “I hope this note finds you well. The Arkansas Cancer Clinic was proud to serve you as a patient. Although various health insurances pay most of the bills for majority of patients, even the deductibles and co-pays can be burdensome. Unfortunately, that is the way our health care system currently works. Arkansas Cancer Clinic is closing its practice after over 29 years of dedicated service to the community. The clinic has decided to forego all balances owed to the clinic by its patients. Happy Holidays.”

Dr. Atiq says this has been an especially challenging year and it brings him joy to help his patients financially.

“Being sick is hard, having cancer is harder, and having Cancer in this pandemic is devastating,” said Atiq.

Atiq has treated thousands as an oncologist in the Pine Bluff community over the decades but this holiday gift was a first.

He says the bills totaled around $650,000 and now they are wiped away.

“I am just a regular physician– a regular person that they have in the neighborhood– just so happens to be me standing here,” Atiq said. “The ones struggling couldn’t pay, so we thought we could just write off the debt.”

The doctor says in a year where his patients have battled a lot, he hopes this will bring hope for a brighter 2021.

“I love them, I care for them, and I am glad I was able to do a little bit at this point for them,” said Atiq.

He says they worked with a billing company to forego the debt and make sure no patient would face any kind of financial repercussions.