Local hospital offers free surgeries

LOS ANGELES As a personal trainer, being healthy is his business. So when 32-year-old Ruben Alvarado realized he pulled a muscle, he was surprised to learn just how bad. He had a hernia.

"Potentially it could get worse. It could rupture which would be the worst case scenario," said Alvarado.

That was nine months ago. Doctors told him he needed surgery. But Alvarado is one of the millions of working uninsured.

"I don't have insurance. I don't have health insurance where I work at," said Alvarado.

Fortunately for him, surgeons at Kaiser Permanente Baldwin Park Medical Center agreed to do his procedure for free.

About 250 volunteers at the Baldwin Park along with four other Southern California Kaiser Medical Centers will do free surgeries on about 70 patients. There are 16 at the Baldwin Park Center alone.

"We will be doing their surgeries tomorrow," said Dr. Phil Mercado, Kaiser Permanente. "Then within the next few weeks they will come back for their post-op visits."

All the procedures being performed Saturday are low risk and out-patient. But doctors say many of the medical problems these patients had should have been addressed earlier.

"It's a hard economic time I think on a lot of people," said Dr. Mercado. "And with the way the economy is people don't have jobs and hence they don't have insurance. This is one way we can serve the communities that were around."

Alvarado says the pain from his hernia was getting much worse and he's grateful the staff at Kaiser are so willing to help.

"I will take some time off of work and hopefully I will back on track," said Alvarado.

All of the patients getting surgery at Kaiser Baldwin Park were referred by the East Valley Community Health Center in West Covina.

Besides the medical volunteers, the hospital also donates use of the operating rooms. Dr. Mercado says his hospital plans on doing another free surgery day this October.

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