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Project Access provides uninsured with free surgeries

Local doctors provide free surgeries to 38 low-income patients

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Thirty-eight uninsured adults who have been suffering with pain, vision problems, and other debilitating conditions will receive free, life-changing medical treatments thanks to Kaiser Permanente and the San Diego County Medical Society Foundation (SDCMSF).

More than 150 Kaiser Permanente nurses, physicians, pharmacists, and other volunteer staff members will provide the medical care, including cataract surgeries, hernia operations, orthopedic knee scope procedures, gallbladder surgeries, and colonoscopies through Project Access on March 24 from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Kaiser Permanente Garfield Outpatient Pavilion located at 5893 Copley Drive. County Supervisor Board Chairman Ron Roberts, County Supervisor Greg Cox, Congresswoman Susan Davis, Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, and Assemblywoman Toni Atkins will kick off the event at 8 a.m.

Among the 38 patients is Jesus Diaz, who will receive his second free cataract surgery to restore his vision. At 49 years old, Diaz's deteriorating eyesight has limited his ability to earn a living making piñatas. Kaiser Permanente will provide the surgery that will restore his sight and 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.

Thirty-six-year-old Joel Urrutia's life was saved after he underwent a colonoscopy and discovered familial adenomatous polyosis, a rare form of congenital cancer. After his surgery, Kaiser Permanente provided his children with DNA testing for the genetic marker as a preventive measure. Urrutia's 3-year-old son tested positive for the cells and will be monitored throughout his lifetime.

In conjunction with National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, the surgeries will include 19 colonoscopies and sigmoidoscopies for patients who have been identified as at risk for colorectal cancer due to rectal bleeding or a positive blood stool test. Colorectal cancer is the number one cause of cancer death by nonsmokers.

"Project Access focuses on improving health and changing lives," says Barbara Mandel, executive director of the 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. In Joel's situation, the colonoscopy resulted in testing for the predisposition for this cancer in his children and could ultimately lead to prevention of cancer for them."

Senior vice president and executive director for Kaiser Permanente San Diego, Mary Ann Barnes says the project embodies Kaiser Permanente's social mission, "This day represents why many of us became healthcare workers. We are here to make lives better. To that end, we share our talents, our resources, and our time to help improve the lives of our fellow San Diegans."

To qualify for Project Access San Diego, an individual must live in San Diego County, be low-income, not be eligible for public health programs, and be referred by their community health center where they receive primary care. More than 1,400 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, over 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 at (858) 300-2777.

To date, Kaiser Permanente has donated more than 9,500 hours and $1.7 million in medical services to provide care to individuals with little or no health insurance. To view a video of past Saturday Surgeries, please click here.

About Project Access San Diego: www.SDCMSF.org

About Kaiser Permanente: www.kaiserpermanente.org

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