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Palo Alto Medical Foundation Newsroom


Gift of Surgery Month Is a Success

Mountain View, Palo Alto, San Carlos Surgery Centers Cared for 72 Patients

medical team photo

PAMF staff at the Mountain View Surgery Center collaborated with RotaCare to deliver the free surgeries.

During the month of August, the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF), a Sutter Health affiliate, held its annual Gift of Surgery event, during which doctors performed 72 free surgeries for patients of safety net clinics who could not afford elective surgeries. PAMF physicians volunteered approximately 180 physician hours and their medical teams three times that.

In the South Bay Area, 27 PAMF physicians volunteered their time to perform surgeries for 37 patients of RotaCare in Mountain View. Those surgeries would have cost nearly $250,000 (including pre- and post-operative care).

“Many hard-working people in our communities simply can’t afford an elective surgery. Gift of Surgery Month is an opportunity to give them the care they need and deserve,” said Melody States, R.N., executive director of PAMF’s Ambulatory Surgery Centers, who started the Gift of Surgery program in 2011.

Sutter Health affiliates partnered with not-for-profit community health clinics and other organizations to help patients who typically wouldn’t have access to life changing-elective surgeries or can’t afford care to get the surgeries they need. Usually these patients already receive primary care or other services from a community clinic.

The Gift of Surgery patients needed procedures spanning myriad specialties including dermatology, ENT, gastroenterology, hand surgery, OB-GYN, ophthalmology, orthopedics, podiatry, urology and vascular care. Screening colonoscopies were provided as well. Most of the cases were for non-life threatening issues that were causing general or specific impairment. All surgeries were performed in an outpatient setting, and did not require overnight hospitalization.

Giving back to communities is at the heart of Sutter Health’s mission as a not-for-profit health care network. The network gives millions every year to provide care to people of all backgrounds who can’t afford to pay—regardless of their income, insurance or immigration status. Although the Gift of Surgery event occurs annually in August, Sutter Health provides free care throughout the year to people in need. In 2014 Sutter Health invested more than $1.8 million in charity care every week.

RotaCare in Mountain View

Surgeries at RotaCare, were managed by Mirella Nguyen, N.P., who did extensive planning and patient chart reviews.

Over three days at three different PAMF surgical centers, uninsured RotaCare patients received the gift of surgery, and 20 other patients received much needed surgical consultations. In many cases, this provided them with the opportunity to return to work or perform their jobs without severe discomfort.

“Knees, shoulders, hernias and eardrum membranes were repaired, cysts and lipomas removed and colonoscopies performed. Each and every patient was so appreciative,” Nguyen said. “The expression of gratitude from all of the patients gave the many professionals involved immense satisfaction. Collaborations like the Gift of Surgery make a true difference in health of our community.

“On the surgery days, our RotaCare staff acted as patient guides, interpreters and support in the recovery room,” said Nguyen. “In the days that followed the surgeries, RotaCare staff offered on-call services and post-op support. But this gift would not have happened without the generosity of PAMF surgeons and anesthesiologists who donated their time and expertise, PAMF which provided their surgery centers and the necessary clinical staff, and the numerous PAMF employees who provided superb and diligent administrative coordination.”

Community Health Partners

Sutter Health is committed to building healthier communities, and supports many programs across Northern California that help people who need care the most.

In addition to Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s Mountain View, Palo Alto and San Carlos Centers, Sutter Health affiliates throughout Northern California participated in the Gift of Surgery effort, including surgery centers in Auburn, Fairfield, Jackson, Oakland, Roseville, Sacramento, San Francisco and Santa Rosa.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, Sutter Health partnered with:

  • Operation Access, a large network of doctors and hospitals in the San Francisco Bay Area that provide free surgeries to people who can’t afford to pay
  • RotaCare, which has 12 Bay Area clinics that serve residents who have no access to care
  • Samaritan House, a food-distribution agency in San Mateo County offering a range of services, including free medical clinics to uninsured, low-income residents
  • Sierra Sacramento Physicians’ Initiative to Reach Out, Innovate and Teach (SPIRIT), a program of the Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society that coordinates free surgical services for uninsured people in the Sacramento region.

These community clinic partners selected patients from among patient base they serve, based on their medical conditions, current health status and financial need. Patients received follow-up care through the referring community health clinics where they already receive their primary care.