OPERATION ACCESS: Provides Free Surgery To Working Poor
Saturday's San Francisco Examiner profiled Operation Access, a nonprofit organization that provides free surgery to the working poor. Drs. Bill Schecter and Douglas Grey, the surgeons who started the Bay Area group five years ago, said they have found that "time and skills can help hundreds of people." Schecter said they co-founded Operation Access after noticing that "doctors are working with people in Guatemala and all over the world, [b]ut the needy people here are not getting treatment." Grey noted that many of the organization's clientele earn "too much to qualify for government assistance, but not enough to afford insurance." According to the Examiner, 133,000 San Franciscans are uninsured. In response, 107 medical professionals at seven Bay Area hospitals have participated in the program, performing 250 free low-risk surgeries since 1993, including breast biopsies, hernia repairs and ear, nose and throat procedures. Tina Ahn, executive director of Operation Access, said the procedures, valued at $400 to $10,000, are performed at San Francisco General, University of San Francisco Hospital, Mount Zion and Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center after a referral from Operation Access.
A study released in May by Mayor Willie Brown's Blue Ribbon Committee on Universal Health Care revealed that college students and single adults are among those who are not inclined to seek preventive care because of costly insurance policies. According to the report, the "sporadic and expensive care" provided to these individuals results in "higher morbidity, lost productivity and poorer overall quality of living." In an effort to reduce preventable and therefore more costly emergency situations, Schecter notes that his group targets those "patients [who] might otherwise skip [care] for financial reasons." He said, "Our hope is that one day there won't be a need for an organization like this. I don't think this will happen, we expect the problem to get worse" (Lemus, 9/5).