Norfolk doctor lets patients pay for surgery through volunteer work

Published: Dec. 18, 2019 at 9:48 AM CST
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For many, medical procedures are so costly they are simply unaffordable.

According to Doctor Demetrio Aguila III with Healing Hands of Nebraska, about two-thirds of those who went bankrupt last year did so because of medical debt. He is hoping to help solve that issue by allowing people to pay for medical procedures with volunteer work. He calls it the M25 program. Its named for the 25th chapter of the book of Matthew in the Bible.

"For years I had been doing surgery for patients and taking care of their health problems, taking care of their medical problems, and then I would find out months later, sometimes years later, in fixing their medical problem, I had caused, or contributed to, their financial ruin," Aguila said. "I need to be able to look myself in the mirror at night and know that I'm taking good care of my patients.

The process is simple. If someone elects to pay for surgery through the M25 Program, Aguila gives them the list of non-profit partners working with Healing Hands of Nebraska and tells them to simply tell the non-profit they are there for the M25 program.

The non-profit then calls Aguila and he gives them a number of service hours to be completed. Once that person and any friends or family who wish to help complete that amount of hours, Aguila performs the surgery free of charge.

"We've eliminated a lot of the administrative hassle that's associated with healthcare," Aguila said. "We've lowered the cost of healthcare. We've made it fair for everybody involved. Nobody loses. That is the core of the M25 Program."

Aguila hopes programs like M25 work to inspire others to do good in their communities and to create a situation in which everyone wins.

"I'd like to inspire other doctors and other medical professionals to find that hope again," Aguila said. "To find that reason for being a doctor and to bring it back to the core of what they do everyday."

The first patient who paid for surgery through the M25 program is scheduled to undergo the procedure in January. Currently, Healing Hands of Nebraska partners with the Orphan Grain Train in Norfolk and the Least of Our Brethren in Omaha for the M25 Program. Aguila says the list of partners will be growing as time goes on.