Going under the knife can be a scary experience, but some Summit County patients had at least one less thing to worry about during their recent surgeries: the cost.
The fourth-annual Community Surgery Day helped 17 residents Saturday, Oct. 12. The day offers free surgeries to individuals without health insurance. Nine surgeons and at least 50 other volunteers, from nurses to interpreters, anesthesiologists and other health professionals, donated their time to those in need.
At Peak One Surgery center in Frisco, two shoulders, two knees, one hernia, three backs, six colonoscopies and three gynecology surgeries were completed during the day. An initial screening process helped select individuals at the greatest risk if they didn’t get the surgery they needed.
Sarah Vaine, CEO of Summit Community Care Clinic, said the day is a great way to help people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford a necessary surgery.
“It’s like winning a lottery,” she said. “If people can just get their medical needs met, they can become great community members, going back to work again.”
Dr. Peter Janes of Vail-Summit Orthopaedics got the idea for a free surgery day from another doctor he was working with in Haiti after the earthquake. He said he wanted to do something to help people in his own community.
“The demand is certainly there,” he said. “It’s a lot to ask people to come in on a beautiful Saturday, but it’s worth it.”
Selection also occurs based on outpatient capability and the type of required surgical specialty. Summit County has the highest percentage of uninsured residents in the state, Vaine said.
“There’s a lot of need right here in our own community,” she said.
Claudia York and Maribeth Lencioni were two nurses volunteering Saturday, cleaning and sterilizing the medical instruments.
“If we don’t do it, it won’t happen,” Lencioni said.
The center arranges for physical therapy for patients after their surgeries, and all of the supplies, space and time are donated for the day.
“It really brings the staff together,” York said. “Everyone is excited. We get to help these people put their lives back together.”
Scott Thomas of Pinnacle III, management company for the surgery center, said from 2008-11, surgery centers helped save the medical industry $7.5 billion in health care costs, compared with the cost of hospital care.
“People recover faster when they get to go home,” York said. “We take care of every piece of the puzzle.”
One patient who received a surgery and wished to remain anonymous wrote a thank you letter to the staff, saying the experience was humbling.
“Although it says it is ‘free’ it definitely is not,” the patient wrote. “The time involved with all of the volunteers, coordinating everything, the doctors, and the nurses, is definitely not free, and I wish I could thank every single person that touched our lives on Saturday. It absolutely overwhelms me thinking about their generosity.”