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NYT Sobs: Hospitals Deport Illegal Aliens

Yet another heartrending tale about the plight of illegal aliens from New York Times:

Luis Alberto Jiménez, an illegal immigrant injured in a car accident in Florida, was treated at a community hospital, which eventually sent him back to Guatemala. He spends most of his days inside a one-room house; only the presence of visitors, who can help him into his wheelchair, gives him the rare chance to get out of bed.

Immigrants Facing Deportation by U.S. Hospitals

By DEBORAH SONTAG

August 3, 2008

JOLOMCÚ, Guatemala — High in the hills of Guatemala, shut inside the one-room house where he spends day and night on a twin bed beneath a seriously outdated calendar, Luis Alberto Jiménez has no idea of the legal battle that swirls around him in the lowlands of Florida.

Shooing away flies and beaming at the tiny, toothless elderly mother who is his sole caregiver, Mr. Jiménez, a knit cap pulled tightly on his head, remains cheerily oblivious that he has come to represent the collision of two deeply flawed American systems, immigration and health care.

Eight years ago, Mr. Jiménez, 35, an illegal immigrant working as a gardener in Stuart, Fla., suffered devastating injuries in a car crash with a drunken Floridian. A community hospital saved his life, twice, and, after failing to find a rehabilitation center willing to accept an uninsured patient, kept him as a ward for years at a cost of $1.5 million.

What happened next set the stage for a continuing legal battle with nationwide repercussions: Mr. Jiménez was deported — not by the federal government but by the hospital, Martin Memorial. After winning a state court order that would later be declared invalid, Martin Memorial leased an air ambulance for $30,000 and “forcibly returned him to his home country,” as one hospital administrator described it.

Since being hoisted in his wheelchair up a steep slope to his remote home, Mr. Jiménez, who sustained a severe traumatic brain injury, has received no medical care or medication — just Alka-Seltzer and prayer, his 72-year-old mother said. Over the last year, his condition has deteriorated with routine violent seizures, each characterized by a fall, protracted convulsions, a loud gurgling, the vomiting of blood and, finally, a collapse into unconsciousness.

“Every time, he loses a little more of himself,” his mother, Petrona Gervacio Gaspar, said in Kanjobal, the Indian dialect that she speaks with an otherworldly squeak.

Mr. Jiménez’s benchmark case exposes a little-known but apparently widespread practice. Many American hospitals are taking it upon themselves to repatriate seriously injured or ill immigrants because they cannot find nursing homes willing to accept them without insurance. Medicaid does not cover long-term care for illegal immigrants, or for newly arrived legal immigrants, creating a quandary for hospitals, which are obligated by federal regulation to arrange post-hospital care for patients who need it.

American immigration authorities play no role in these private repatriations, carried out by ambulance, air ambulance and commercial plane. Most hospitals say that they do not conduct cross-border transfers until patients are medically stable and that they arrange to deliver them into a physician’s care in their homeland. But the hospitals are operating in a void, without governmental assistance or oversight, leaving ample room for legal and ethical transgressions on both sides of the border.

Indeed, some advocates for immigrants see these repatriations as a kind of international patient dumping, with ambulances taking patients in the wrong direction, away from first-world hospitals to less-adequate care, if any.

Repatriation is pretty much a death sentence in some of these cases,” said Dr. Steven Larson, an expert on migrant health and an emergency room physician at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. “I’ve seen patients bundled onto the plane and out of the country, and once that person is out of sight, he’s out of mind.” …

Medical repatriations are happening with varying frequency, and varying degrees of patient consent, from state to state and hospital to hospital. No government agency or advocacy group keeps track of these cases, and it is difficult to quantify them.

A few hospitals and consulates offered statistics that provide snapshots of the phenomenon: some 96 immigrants a year repatriated by St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix; 6 to 8 patients a year flown to their homelands from Broward General Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; 10 returned to Honduras from Chicago hospitals since early 2007; some 87 medical cases involving Mexican immigrants — and 265 involving people injured crossing the border — handled by the Mexican consulate in San Diego last year, most but not all of which ended in repatriation…

Mr. Jiménez, whose memory is patchy, said he remembered nothing about his time in the United States — not Indiantown, not his job as a gardener, not the accident and not the hospital.

He does, remember the dreams that propelled his migration, and he expressed them eloquently: “I headed north like a peasant with a heavy bundle on his back, bent over, determined to better himself,” he said. “Other people had things so I thought, ‘Why not me?’ But now I regret it. Maybe God was punishing me for my illusions.”

“No, Luis,” the interpreter interjected, “it was just chance, an accident, a car accident.”

In Guatemala City, Dr. Garcés, the public health advocate, said that he was not surprised that, as he had predicted, Mr. Jiménez never received further medical care. “That’s the usual story of patients that are released from the National Orthopedic Hospital,” he said.

Dr. Garcés called Mr. Jiménez’s repatriation “inhumane.”

“In cases like that, if you cut the medical care, you’re hurting that person,” Dr. Garcés said. “You’re doing just the opposite of what the medical system should do. That goes against every international convention of human rights and health. To send him to Guatemala was to send him to very poor living and health conditions and probably he will die because of that, and that’s not fair.” …

In typical New York Times fashion, this article goes on and on for nine internet pages. (Not counting the 21 page “slide show.”)

Of course the purpose of all of this hand-wringing is to convince us of the unfairness of these deportations. And, indeed, we are convinced.

We thereby suggest that the highly paid employees at The Times take up a collection for Mr. Jiménez and his fellow lawbreakers, so that they can pay their hospital bills in their native lands — or better yet, go to that medical paradise, Cuba.

After all, the New York Times has long since convinced us that most countries, and especially Cuba, have far better and more importantly far more just healthcare systems than our own.

So why punish these people by subjecting them to America’s reprehensible medical nightmare?

Also, should anyone actually plow through the aforementioned 21 page slide show, they will find some surprises:

 

Mr. Jiménez’s relatives in Florida were shocked by how the accident had changed him.

After Mr. Jiménez arrived, the Guatemalan hospital contacted his common-law wife, Fabiana Domingo Laureano, who lived in Antigua, Guatemala, with their two young sons, and asked her to come get him. Ms. Domingo, who was 27 at the time, was shocked to learn that her husband was back and terrified by the request.

Are we heartless to wonder why these people cannot do more for our hero Mr. Jiménez?

But of course those medical ethicists at the New York Time already have the solution to everyone’s problems in mind:

Many American hospitals are taking it upon themselves to repatriate seriously injured or ill immigrants because they cannot find nursing homes willing to accept them without insurance. Medicaid does not cover long-term care for illegal immigrants, or for newly arrived legal immigrants, creating a quandary for hospitals, which are obligated by federal regulation to arrange post-hospital care for patients who need it.

You see, we must change these draconian and outmoded laws so that the US taxpayer can provide more for these wonderful additions to our society.

The Times is famous for its generosity — with other people’s money.

This article was posted by Steve on Sunday, August 3rd, 2008. Comments are currently closed.

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