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Deported from U.S. in a coma, returned to U.S. to be saved at California hospital

Posted Nov 10 2008 4:16pm

Hospitals only receive partial compensation for illegal immigrants, and it ends when the patient is stabilized.  This is an interesting story, not so much from the illegal immigrant side, but the advice of the hospital in Arizona is what is scary, as that could happen to anyone, and perhaps someone without insurance too. 

The hospital said there was no relief in site and to pull the plugs, St. Joseph hospital, part of the Catholic West Healthcare system.  He went back to Mexico, then over to California and now is alive and well, but again, the decision process here with the hospital is the disturbing side of this story in my opinion as other states face the same decision making processes as well.  Does it become apparent to pull the plug on a life if there is no money to cover the charity cases?  There will more than likely be more to come on this story.  BD

GILA BEND, Arizona: Soon after Antonio Torres, a husky 19-year-old farmworker, suffered catastrophic injuries in a car accident last June, a Phoenix hospital began making plans for his repatriation to Mexico. Torres was comatose and connected to a ventilator. He was also a legal immigrant whose family lives and works in the purple alfalfa fields of this southwestern town. But he was uninsured. So the hospital disregarded the strenuous objections of his grief-stricken parents and sent Torres on a four-hour journey over the California border into Mexicali.

They found a hospital in California willing to treat him, loaded him into a donated ambulance and drove him back into the United States as a potentially deadly infection raged through his system.

The two U.S. hospitals treating Antonio Torres approached his case from distinctly different perspectives. St. Joseph's in Phoenix, with a focus on keeping down the rising cost of uncompensated care, repatriates about eight uninsured patients a month.

By contrast, El Centro Regional Medical Center in California said that it never sent an immigrant over the border. "We don't export patients," said David Green, its chief executive. "I can understand the frustrations of other hospitals, but the flip side is the human being element."

The Torreses have filed a detailed complaint against St. Joseph's with the Arizona health department, and the matter is under investigation.

Now Torres walks with a cane and speaks slurred but comprehensible Spanish. He is itching to climb back onto a combine and cut alfalfa alongside his father. For the moment, though, he is commuting with his mother from Arizona to California for therapy.

"Imagine if I had said, 'O.K., disconnect him,' " Jesús Torres said.

Deported from U.S. in a coma, returned to U.S. to be saved - International Herald Tribune

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