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Kaiser performs free surgeries for uninsured

July 11, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
An Inland Empire hospital stepped up to help people who need surgery but don't have health insurance. Doctors, nurses and other medical staff donated their time for the much-needed operations.

Jonathan Meador of Fontana needed surgery to repair a hernia, but without medical insurance, getting it seemed unlikely. He lost his job and medical coverage last year following the economic downturn.

"I didn't want to pay the $14,000 for the surgery, so I was trying to get benefits to help me out," he said.

But it was his medical condition that cost him a job opportunity.

"They found the hernias through a physical, and they wouldn't let me work," Meador said.

On Saturday, Meador and 15 other patients underwent the surgeries they needed at the Kaiser Permanente Vineyard Medical Center in Ontario. The medical care was provided for free.

"We found that there was a great need for surgical intervention on some of the patients, and there was no other avenue for them in the community to have these things done," said medical director Dr. David Quam.

Kaiser Permanente selected its patients from 11 community clinics in San Bernardino County. Surgeons will be performing six cataract surgeries, nine hernia surgeries and one gall bladder-removal surgery.

This is only the second time the hospital has performed the service.

Anesthesiologist and physician-in-charge D. Thelma Korpman is leading the effort in San Bernardino County.

"We have a skill, we have all that we need, we have all the care that we need, and there's a lot of people that don't have that, and we can give it to them," Korpman said.

The hospital is hoping to provide the community surgeries twice a year. There is already a list of willing doctors, nurses and medical staff willing to give up their weekends.

For Meador, he is looking forward to a full recovery.

"I'll be happy to get back to work and doing something every day," he said. "This is for the birds, this unemployment stuff."

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