Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Seton University Study Shows An Increase Of Illegal Medical Repatriations By U.S. Hospitals

Quelino Jiménez Ojeda

A Seton Hall Law School study on forced or coerce medical repatriation criticized the U.S. government for its lack to enforce its exclusive authority to deport individuals or sanction hospitals whether private or public that engage in illegal deportations of ill patients to cut exceeding medical costs.

By H. Nelson Goodson
August 13, 2013

Washington, D.C. - The immigration reform debate, civil disobedience protests and a national push by both immigrants and supporters for reform continues in Washington, D.C. in the hope that U.S. House of Representatives, which is controlled by the Republicans can approve a bill that would allow a path to citizenship for more than 11 million of undocumented immigrants this year. One growing issue that has been in the shadows, left out from immigration reform and reported by few is the illegal medical repatriation by hospitals in the country. It's a widely exercised practice with no consequences or sanctions to hospitals that spend thousands of dollars to private removal services to deport ill patients to other countries for the purpose to cut medical treatment costs from uninsured immigrants. 
The medical repatriation practice by hospitals has been documented in 15 states and ill patients have been illegally deported to the following countries, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Lithuania, Mexico, Philippines, Poland and South Korea.
A joint study by the Center for Social Justice at Seton Hall Law School and Health Justice Program at New York Lawyers for Public Interest released on December 2012 revealed an increase of illegal medical repatriation (deportation) of uninsured ill patients to foreign medical facilities. The medical repatriation study criticized the U.S. government for its lack to enforce its exclusive authority to deport individuals or sanction hospitals whether private or public that engage in illegal deportations of ill patients to cut exceeding medical costs. The study also found that undocumented injured immigrants, permanent residents and a U.S. born child were victims of medical repatriation because they were uninsured.
The study cites the case of Quelino Jiménez Ojeda who was injured while doing a roofing job in Chicago and ended up at a local hospital on August 20, 2010. Once Ojeda was considered stabilized, the hospital executive board decided to deport Ojeda to Mexico. A hospital spokesperson first admitted that it was done by Ojeda's family consent, but later recanted when Ojeda and his mother confirmed, that the hospital had lied and deported him without approval. The hospital also got approval from the Mexican government to allow Ojeda back in the country by falsifying documents, the Ojeda family claimed. 
In Feb. 2011, Kelly Jo Golson, senior vice president and spokesperson for Advocate Christ Medical Center (ACMC) in Oak Lawn admitted to deporting quadriplegic patient Quelino Jiménez Ojeda, 23, to Mexico. Ojeda was taken out of the medical center on December 21, 2010 after the executive ACMC board decided to forcibly remove Ojeda from hospital care after five months of treatment for a spinal cord injury escalating to $650,000 in medical costs. Ojeda was taken out of the hospital by AeroCare personnel hired by ACMC and put Ojeda on a plane to Mexico, so ACMC could finally stop paying for his medical treatment. The AeroCare transfer of Ojeda to Mexico cost $60,000, according to Golson.
Community activists in Chicago also alleged both the AeroCare and Advocate might have falsified information to acquire Mexican government documents to deport Ojeda to Oaxaca, Mexico without his consent or family's authorization.
In the early hours of January 1, 2012, Ojeda died at the age of 24, of an apparent heart attack while a patient at the Doctor Macedonio Benitez Fuentes General Hospital in Juchitan de Zaragoza, Oaxaca, Mexico. 
Ojeda's case is one of multiple cases mentioned in the Seton study. At least 800 cases showed attempted or involuntary deportation of ill patients in the last six years before the report was released. The patients were forced or coerced in the widely practice of medical repatriation by hospitals.
A recent medical repatriation was authorized by the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey when it decided to deport Wladyslaw Haniszewski, 69, an undocumented Polish immigrant in June who had lived in the U.S. for 30 years. Haniszewski ended up in a shelter after losing his job and apartment in Perth Amboy. He suffered a crippling heart attack that rendered him unconscious and ended up at the New Jersey hospital. While he was unconscious due to the stroke, the hospital deported him without letting anyone know or his friends who later identified him after he was deported. He later woke up in Poland.
Haniszewski suffers from a blood disease and was uninsured.
Haniszewski was transported to a Poland hospital in Boleslawiec without his consent and left there, according the NYdailynews.
Numerous other cases of medical repatriation are suspected of have taken place in the U.S., but have gone unreported due to a lack of government regulation and a mandatory requirement to report such cases.
The study recommended that the "U.S. Department of Health and Human Services track medical repatriation, impose sanctions on hospitals that perform involuntary medical repatriation and develop regulations that impose greater accountability for hospitals discharging patients to facilities abroad...(to push) for Congress to convene hearings and to comply with international human rights obligations."

Seton University study:

Discharge, Deportation, and Dangerous Journeys: A Study on the Practice of Medical Repatriation / Full Report (PDF) at   http://is.gd/AWQkjE

Discharge, Deportation, and Dangerous Journeys: A Study on the Practice of Medical Repatriation / Executive Summary (PDF) at   http://is.gd/DzchlX

Alta Médica, Deportación, y Viajes Peligrosos: Un Informe sobre la Práctica de Repatriación Medica / Resumen Ejecutivo (PDF)   http://is.gd/bkxImn

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