About 20 West Los Angeles area residents with limited or no health insurance received much needed surgeries and medical procedures at no cost to them through Community Access Day, a collaborative effort between Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles and the Venice Family Clinic. The procedures were provided May 17 at the Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles Medical Center.
Since the program’s inception six years ago, more than 100 people have benefited from free surgeries and procedures at the West Los Angeles Medical Center.
One of those patients is David Knaus, a photographer from Venice, who received cataract surgery last March.
“The cataracts were affecting the quality of my work. Every day was a struggle,” says Knaus, who doesn’t have health insurance. “I see 100 percent better now – it’s a huge improvement from where I was before the surgery.”
Underserved populations continue to lack access to specialty care, and the gap between the supply and demand for specialty care is only widening, according to 2011 data from the Specialty Care Initiative, co-led by the Center for Community Health and Evaluation and Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit.
“Committing resources to improving the health of our underserved populations is an integral part of Kaiser Permanente’s mission. This day of service to our community shows our continuing dedication to working with our community providers to augment their services and quality of care as we work jointly to break down the barriers to health care access,” Georgina Garcia, registered nurse and executive director of Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles Medical Center stated.
A faltering economy has pushed more people into the ranks of the uninsured, while health care providers struggle to provide and coordinate specialty care to meet increasingly complex patient needs.
“This program demonstrates our commitment to providing life-saving and life-enhancing services that would otherwise be out of reach to these patients,” Clare Thomas, an anesthesiologist at Kaiser Permanente, West Los Angeles, added. “This opportunity has a significant impact on improving these patients’ quality of life, allowing them to go back to work, care for their families and resume their normal lives.”
Patients like Joel Martinez, 23, who works at a dry cleaner and has suffered from a hernia for more than one year, looked forward to the surgery.
“I can’t stand for more than a couple of hours without being uncomfortable,” he said.
Jaime Gonzalez, 72, another patient scheduled for surgery, suffered from a heavy cataract in his left eye and Pterygium, a growth on the inside of the eyelids, in his right eye. He also eagerly waited surgery day, citing “there’s so much to see in life.”
In 2013, Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles Medical Center invested more than $26 million to the community through local community benefit programs, benefiting 55 local non-profit health organizations.