Health Inc.

Free Surgery Attracts Uninsured In Colorado

As Washington wrangles over how to expand health coverage, some folks are taking direct action to help the uninsured right now.

People wait in line for the chance at free surgery. i i

People wait to be screened for a chance at free surgery in Pueblo, Colo. Cameron Allen hide caption

itoggle caption Cameron Allen
People wait in line for the chance at free surgery.

People wait to be screened for a chance at free surgery in Pueblo, Colo.

Cameron Allen

This Saturday in Pueblo, Colorado, more than 40 people are expected to have surgery free of charge for everything from bad gallbladders to balky knees. There will even be a few vasectomies and tubal ligations.

It's another charity treatment marathon on US soil involving groups that used to think more about helping impoverished people overseas. Similar though much larger events in Los Angeles and Virginia have shined a light on the plight of the uninsured.

For quite a while, the folks behind the Pueblo charity day have been going to the developing world, providing care in such places as Haiti, the Philippines and Ecuador. But for the second time in two years, they've decided to offer free outpatient surgery to the working poor back home in Southern Colorado.

More than 100 people lined up to be screened on Sept. 19 for outpatient surgery, with some sleeping in the parking lot of the Pueblo Surgery Center, which is donating the use of its operating rooms. Medical need and a lack of insurance coverage are the principal criteria.

"This is symbolic," acknowledges Jim Smith, a Pueblo general surgeon who's active in the group Health4Haiti, one of the outfits providing care. "But we hope it will mark the beginning" of something bigger, he said. Smith expects to operate on as many as a dozen patients, more than twice the number he does on a normal day in private practice.

Another charity group International Surgical Missions is helping. About 50 surgery technology students from Colorado Technical University in Pueblo will also lend a hand. All the doctors, nurses and surgery techs will donate their time.

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