Kaiser has new program for uninsured patients

December 7, 2007 11:29:44 PM PST
Kaiser Permanente has a program to offer help to uninsured patients who need surgery.

It's called "Operation Access," and some patients are getting free surgeries at the Oakland Hospital.

Hector Antonio will have surgery tomorrow at Kaiser Permanente's Oakland Medical Center. Doctors will repair a hernia that's kept the 25-year old construction worker off the job for six months.

"I'm very grateful. I've been suffering from this pain for about the last three years, and I'm glad that finally it's being taken care of," said Hector Antonio.

He's like millions of people who fall through the cracks of the medical system.

"They're not indigent. They have money, but they can't afford health insurance," said surgeon Dr. Steve Webster.

Dr. Steve Webster will operate on Hector Antonio. He's part of an all volunteer team of 45-doctors and nurses who will perform a variety of procedures on nine patients. They do this quarterly usually treating only a few patients at a time. They're calling tomorrow "super surgery Saturday."

"We have all kinds of specialists here at the Oakland Medical Center so people can get virtually any kind of operation that they need," said physician in chief Dr. John Loftus.

Patients are referred from other hospitals or clinics. They may have to wait up to four months for an operation. They have to be in good health, and be able to come in and leave the hospital the same day.

The program has no trouble getting volunteers.

"It's a satisfaction that no money can pay for it. It's like you know you cannot buy it. It's like it stays with you," said registered nurse volunteer Erna Auro.

"What we've learned is medical professionals have an amazing capacity to give back to their local communities. We have over 500-medical volunteers, and many of them have been with our program for 15-years," said Mary Gregory from Operation Access.

In that time nearly 3,000 patients have had surgery under this program at the 20-participating hospitals around the Bay Area.

By the end of this year they expect to have served some 600-patients who might not otherwise have been able to see the inside of an operating room.


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