Provider Stories

Dr. Andrew Larson, Project Access Chair and Volunteer Surgeon

“One recent patient of mine was a young, hardworking laborer who developed an inguinal hernia. Lacking insurance and not being able to access care through Workers’ compensation he lived with his situation for quite some time despite the pain and the bulge making his job more and more difficult. Eventually he ended up in the emergency room when the pain was particularly bad. As the hernia was able to be reduced and there were no other obvious health problems other than a slightly high blood glucose level he was sent home. He was given the contact information for a resident medical clinic and because he remained symptomatic he made an appointment.

The residents diagnosed pre-diabetes and confirmed the presence of an inguinal hernia. Knowing he would not be able to afford treatment on his own they contacted Project Access and the care coordinator took over from there. My patient was screened to see if he could qualify for permanent safety net insurance such as Medicaid or one of the Palm Beach County Health Care District’s plans. As he was young, not disabled, and had a regular (but low) weekly paycheck he was not a candidate. He did however have an acute health issue that would need to be treated soon. He therefore qualified for the Project Access program and was matched up with me for evaluation and treatment his hernia. He was also connected with the resident medical clinic for ongoing management of pre-diabetes. I saw him in my private office just like any other surgery patient. When I examined him and confirmed he needed surgery, I did not have to worry about whether he could afford pre-op labs, an EKG, a medical evaluation, or the anesthesia. I also knew if he had a complication and needed hospitalization this would be provided. I confidently called Project Access and a few weeks later a surgical date was provided after staff triaged his case and decided which participating hospital was in line to handle his case.

My patient did well. He never burdened the system with additional emergency room visits and received his diabetes education and monitoring through the resident clinic in an ongoing fashion. Eventually, Project Access staff were able to find an Affordable Care Act program he could purchase which he now uses for his ongoing health care needs. Without the guidance of Project Access staff, it is unlikely he would have discovered this resource on his own and it is very likely he would have ended up with several emergency room bills and an emergency surgical bill that would have destroyed his savings and likely bankrupted him. This is how the program works and this is how our volunteers make a difference every day. Thank you to all of you for making Project Access possible.