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Project Access helps uninsured get free needed surgeries

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Forty-two uninsured adults who have been living with pain, vision problems and other debilitating conditions received free life-changing medical treatment, thanks to Kaiser Permanente and the San Diego County Medical Society Foundation (SDCMSF).

More than 150 volunteer nurses, anesthesiologists, physicians and staff donated their time and talent to perform these procedures through Project Access, a project of SDCMSF on Oct. 15 at the Kaiser Permanente Otay Mesa Outpatient Medical Center on 4650 Palm Avenue (near Chula Vista).

Among the 42 patients was Jesus Diaz whose vision is deteriorating. At 48 years old, Diaz has been limited to making piñatas to help his daughter with household expenses. Kaiser Permanente provided the surgery that restored his sight, which will help him return to work. "I am so appreciative to Kaiser Permanente and Project Access for helping me to get my life back," Diaz said. (VIDEO: See and hear about other life-changing surgeries provided to underserved patients in this volunteer-led program.)

The free medical procedures included eight cataract surgeries, 12 general surgeries, five urology procedures, and 22 colonoscopies.

"Project Access is focused on improving health and changing lives," says Barbara Mandel, executive director, San Diego County Medical Society Foundation. "In many cases, these patients

have been living with pain and unable to work due to their medical conditions. Providing the surgery will put them back to work and allow them to provide for their families."

Senior Vice President and Executive Director for Kaiser Permanente San Diego, Mary Ann Barnes, says the project embodies Kaiser Permanente's social mission, "Our commitment to health and wellness extends beyond our doors. To that end, we invest significant resources in programs that improve the health of our communities."

Since 2008, Kaiser Permanente has donated more than 8,400 hours and more than $1.5 million in medical services to provide care to individuals with little or no health insurance.

To qualify for Project Access San Diego, an individual must live in San Diego County, be low income and not be eligible for public health programs, and be referred by their community health center where they receive primary care. More than 1,200 patients have received free specialty care, including both inpatient and outpatient surgeries and procedures, since Project Access San Diego's inception in December 2008. Currently, more than 23 percent of San Diego adults have no health insurance, primarily due to lack of access through their employment.

For more information, contact the San Diego County Medical Society Foundation at www.sdcmsf.org or 858-300-2777.

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