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Free hernia surgery for the underserved is possible in the United States



Inguinal hernia is one of the most common ailments known to mankind. When symptomatic it can severely affect the patient’s quality of life. Nevertheless, the vast majority of inguinal herniorrhaphies are elective and, therefore, not available to uninsured patients who do not have the financial wherewithal to pay for the operation. Using the Surgery on Sunday model developed in Kentucky, hernia repair for the underserved developed a free clinic for hernia surgery, based on institutional commitment to the poor as well as the volunteer efforts of medical students and hospital personnel at all levels.


After consulting with Surgery on Sunday personnel, HRFU determined the number of in need patients by consulting with local free clinic physicians. Second, and most time consuming, was the application for the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) medical legal protection. Under this law, all in hospital credentialed volunteer professionals are medico-legally protected if the surgery is performed in an associated free clinic. After FTCA application re-writes and committee meetings to work out logistics of the pre-op clinic, the follow-up clinic, enlistment of other volunteers such as transporters, translators, housekeeping for the ORs, a pharmacist, registration personnel and creation of HRFU hospital forms we established a surgery date. A memorandum of understanding was drafted and an agreement letter with the hospital system was co-signed. Fourteen patients were seen in the pre-operative clinic and two were placed on waiting list. Patients were operated upon using 3 operating rooms and a volunteer staff of 4 surgeons, 4 anesthesia personnel and 13 nurses.


No surgical complications were encountered intra-operatively or in the recovery room, and all patients were discharged by 2:30 p.m. 1 week post-operatively one patient had severe incisional pain, two had operative site swelling, but there was no evidence of infection or hematoma, and one had a distal sac fluid collection. All patients returned for follow-up and were appreciative of the care provided. The enthusiasm and participation of the patients and staff both pre-operatively, the day of surgery and postoperatively was outstanding.


On the basis of this result HRFU is prepared to assist other US hernia specialists and their respective hospitals to make Surgery on Sunday a possibility in their community.

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Correspondence to C. J. Filipi.

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Losey-Flores, K., Benzar, R., Chan, J.M. et al. Free hernia surgery for the underserved is possible in the United States. Hernia 18, 305–310 (2014).

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  • Hernia repair
  • Underserved
  • Surgery on Sunday