ORANGE, Calif. (KABC) -- Free surgeries are on the way to Orange County. On Wednesday, instead of a groundbreaking, it was a wall-breaking ceremony with sledgehammers tearing down a wall with text that read "Barriers to Healthcare." The nonprofit Lestonnac Free Clinic in the city of Orange will be renovating a space for a free surgery center.
"Today has been an amazing day. First start of a free surgery. Something that has not occurred in the United States to this day. This is amazing to have the opportunity to be able to finish a project that helps people get to the end of a disease," said Edward Gerber, Executive Director at Lestonnac Free Clinic.
Lestonnac Free Clinic has been around since 1979. It offers free primary health care services, dental and vision care and more. For more than five years, it has offered free surgeries, but they have been taking place at a hospital in L.A. County. Now, with its own surgical center in Orange, the organization will be able to help more patients who need free surgeries like Fabio Martinez Figueroa.
"This is great for all of those who are poor like me who need the help from these clinics. Without the help, poor people wouldn't be able to live," said Martinez.
The 4,000-square-foot facility was made possible thanks to a $3 million donation from the Thompson Family Foundation. Organizers said the surgical center would be able to do about 70 vital surgical procedures accessible to Californians, regardless of residency documentation or status. Surgeons will be volunteering their time to offer this service.
"I can't imagine anything worse than an accident or an illness of a member of a family. And not, A be able to find care. But B, if you do and not be able to pay for it because you don't have insurance. We are just trying to help a bit. All of the work is done by the doctors," Said Bill Thompson with the Thompson Family Foundation.
The grand opening for the surgery center is scheduled to open for next spring.
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