Access OC provides outpatient surgery to low-income uninsured patients

Maria Del Rosario Martinez, who cleans homes, did not know where to turn when she was told she needed surgery for a hernia that had developed in her abdomen. She could not afford the surgery, yet the physical pain from the hernia was preventing her work. Martinez was relieved to learn of Access OC, a program that provides minimal-risk, outpatient surgery to low-income uninsured patients. She was able to have the surgery performed in May 2007 at a hospital in Orange County. Martinez, who now refers Access OC to her friends, speaks highly of the program and said that the Access OC volunteers "guided me through the whole process and calmed my fears of having surgery."

The goal of Access OC is to improve the health of vulnerable people by providing access to medical specialists in a high quality, cost-effective manner. All surgeries are performed entirely by medical volunteers, including surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, operating technicians, schedulers, admitting personnel and other staff at five local hospitals. More than 350 medical personnel have volunteered for the program.

“I volunteer because I want to make a difference in my own community,” said Dr. Ramin Zolfagari, a physician associated with Kaiser Permanente Medical Group who volunteers for the program. “These are simple, yet life-altering surgeries that enhance people's quality of life."

Many of the surgeries performed through Access OC do improve the patients’ abilities to perform their jobs dramatically, allowing them to provide for their families. Common surgeries include gall bladder removal and orthopedic procedures, operations that decrease pain and enable patients to return to work.

Health Funders Partnership of Orange County, a group of health funders aiming to improve medical services in Orange County, began the first initiative of Access OC in May 2007. The leaders of Access OC are aiming to fill the huge need that exists in Orange County for low-cost healthcare services: the program has received more than 200 patient referrals from community clinics. Volunteer Center Orange County, an affiliate of HandsOn Network, assists with Access OC.