米国の病院から追放される移民たち/米国医療事情

米国の病院から追放される移民たち
画像 Mr. Jime'nez は移民と医療という2つの深刻な米国のシステムの衝突を代表している。8年前にフロリダの庭師として働いていた不法移民だったが、酔ったフロリダ人と自動車事故をおこし重症を負い、地元の病院は命を救ったが、リハビリテーション・センターが無保険を理由に受入を断ったために、数年間150万ドルかけて収容した。
 全国的な反響と継続する法廷闘争がおこり、最終的に州政府ではなく、Martin Memorial病院により追放された。後で無効であるとされる州裁判所命令を勝ち取った後に、Martin Memorialは、30,000ドルの救急飛行機をリースし、病院の管理者が「強制的に、彼は彼の母国に復帰した」と説明した。
 現在は母国で重症の外傷性脳障害であるが治療は全く受けられず、痙攣発作を頻発している。
 この例は、広く行われている習慣を露わにした。無保険者はnursing homesが受入を断るため、多くの米国の病院は重症外傷や病気の移民を送還する役目を負っている。メディケイド医療補助は、不法移民の長期医療や新しく流入した不法移民の治療ををカバーせず、連邦規定によって患者退院後の必要な治療を手配することを義務づけられている病院の重荷となる。
 救急車や救急飛行機、商業用飛行機によって行われるこれらの私的な本国送還には米国出入国管理当局は関与していない。実際は、一種の国際的な患者ダンピングと見える。本国送還は死刑判決に相当するケースもある。
 しかし、多くの場合に、本国送還への唯一の代案は患者を無制限に急性期治療用の病院に引き留めるということとなり、満床で自らの市民に適正な世話を提供することができないのに、それは緊張を私達のシステムに持ち込むことになる。
 以下は報告されたほんの一部であるが、
フェニックスのセント・ジョゼフの病院によって送還された1年に約96人の移民;
フォート・ローダーデール、フロリダのBroward一般メディカル・センターから彼らの母国に飛行された1年に6から8人の患者;
2007年初め以来10人はシカゴ病院からホンジュラスに戻った;
昨年、メキシコ移民に関係している約87の医学のケースと国境を越えて傷害した265人の関係人々が、サンディエゴのメキシコ領事館によって扱われ、多くは本国送還となった。
 結局のところ、この本国送還というニッチのサービスを担う会社MexCareが6年前に設立され、カリフォルニアに本拠を置いているがラテンアメリカで「28軒の病院と治療センターのネットワーク」によって全国的に働いている少なくとも1つの本国送還会社を維持するのに十分な需要がある。
 Martin Memorialは昨年は3.6%、2006年は6%のマージンを報告している。州のデータでは、シニアエグゼクティブに給与として400万ドル以上を支払い、非営利的なメディカル・センターとして2006年に2億7060万ドルの財産を報告している。非課税の病院は一部を慈善活動のケースにあてるようにと期待され、フロリダ州として平均的な約3%、2006年に2390万ドルを使い、Jime'nezさんの場合は非常に高価な慈善活動ケースであった。彼のように長期治療が必要な場合は、路上に放り出すわけにはゆかず、適切なpost-hospital careのできる施設に移送しなければならない。
(書きかけ)
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http://www.mexcare.com/
画像The MexCare Advantage
Who We Are
* A network of 28 hospitals, dialysis treatment centers and physicians in Latin America
* We offer placement facilities closer to the patient's home
* We offer a significant reduction in the cost of unpaid services
Our Services
* Develop a plan for transfer, care & discharge based on patient & family needs
* Link patient & family to community services closer to home
* Coordinate bed to bed transfer
* Prescribed treatment, including consultations, medications & supplies at no additional cost
Provider Network
* Full-service hospitals and dialysis treatment centers with an array of specialties
* Locate patient close to services, family & friends
* Bilingual communication to referring hospital
Benefits to Patient
* Patient/family consent before transfer
* Physician/staff/patient rapport enhanced by cultural similarities
* Closeness to family and home promotes well-being
* Family educated in the home care of the patient
Benefits to Hospital
* Provide care choices for patient & family
* Agreed length of stay & discharge plan
* Improve bed utilization
* Reduce cost per discharge
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Immigrants Deported, by U.S. Hospitals
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/03/us/03deport.html?_r=1&ref=health&oref=slogin
By DEBORAH SONTAG
Published: 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.

Josh Haner/The 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.

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.”

Hospital administrators view these cases as costly, burdensome patient transfers that force them to shoulder responsibility for the dysfunctional immigration and health-care systems. In many cases, they say, the only alternative to repatriations is keeping patients indefinitely in acute-care hospitals.

“What that does for us, it puts a strain on our system, where we’re unable to provide adequate care for our own citizens,” said Alan B. Kelly, vice president of Scottsdale Healthcare in Arizona. “A full bed is a full bed.”

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.

Over all, there is enough traffic to sustain at least one repatriation company, founded six years ago to service this niche ― MexCare, based in California but operating nationwide with a “network of 28 hospitals and treatment centers” in Latin America. It bills itself as “an alternative choice for the care of the unfunded Latin American nationals,” promising “significant saving to U.S. hospitals” seeking “to alleviate the financial burden of unpaid services.”

Many hospitals engage in repatriations of seriously injured and ill immigrants only as a last resort. “We’ve done flights to Lithuania, Poland, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico,” said Cara Pacione, director of social work at Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago. “But out of about a dozen cases a year, we probably fly only a couple back.”

Other hospitals are more aggressive, routinely sending uninsured immigrants, both legal and illegal, back to their homelands. One Tucson hospital even tried to fly an American citizen, a sick baby whose parents were illegal immigrants, to Mexico last year; the police, summoned by a lawyer to the airport, blocked the flight. “It was horrendous,” the mother said.

Sister Margaret McBride, vice president for mission services at St. Joseph’s in Phoenix, which is part of Catholic Healthcare West, said families were rarely happy about the hospital’s decision to repatriate their relatives. But, she added, “We don’t require consent from the family.”

In a case this spring that outraged Phoenix’s Hispanic community, St. Joseph’s planned to send a comatose, uninsured legal immigrant back to Honduras, until community leaders got lawyers involved. While they were negotiating with the hospital, the patient, Sonia del Cid Iscoa, 34, who has been in the United States for half her life and has seven American-born children, came out of her coma. She is now back in her Phoenix home.

“I can think of three different scenarios that would have led to a fatal outcome if they had moved her,” John M. Curtin, her lawyer, said. “The good outcome today is due to the treatment that the hospital provided ― reluctantly, and, sadly enough, only in response to legal and public pressure.”

Unlike Ms. Iscoa and Mr. Jiménez, most uninsured immigrant patients in repatriation cases do not have advocates fighting for them, and they are quietly returned to their home countries. Sometimes, their families accept that fate because they are told they have no options; sometimes they are grateful to the hospital for paying their fare home, given that other hospitals leave it to relatives or consulates to assume responsibility for the patients.

Mr. Jiménez’s case is apparently the first to test the legality of cross-border patient transfers that are undertaken without the consent of the patients or their guardians ― and the liability of the hospitals who undertake them.

“We’re the rhesus monkey on this issue,” said Scott Samples, a spokesman for Martin Memorial.

A Life-Changing Accident

Mr. Jiménez’s journey north was propelled by the usual migrant’s dreams. When he pledged thousands of dollars to pay the smuggler who delivered him to the United States, he envisioned years of labor on the lawns of affluent America and then a payoff: the means to buy land of his own, to cultivate his own garden, back in Guatemala.

But fate ― in the person of Donald Flewellen, a pipe welder with a drug problem and a long criminal record ― intervened. At lunchtime on Feb. 28, 2000, Mr. Flewellen was loitering in the parking lot of a Publix supermarket in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., when the employees of an irrigation company ran inside, leaving the keys in their van. Seizing the moment, Mr. Flewellen, a thorn in the side of local prosecutors with at least 14 arrests, jumped into the van and drove off.

In the next few hours, Mr. Flewellen consumed enough alcohol to produce a blood-alcohol level four times higher than the legal limit. But drive he did, along the back roads that connect the affluent Treasure Coast to the agricultural interior where Guatemalan Mayan immigrants have settled in a place, coincidentally, called Indiantown.

About 4 p.m., Mr. Flewellen was heading east on a rural road just as Mr. Jiménez and three compatriots were returning home from a day of landscaping. His stolen van and their 1988 Chevrolet Beretta crashed head-on, instantly killing two of the Guatemalans and severely injuring the driver and Mr. Jiménez, a back-seat passenger.

Identified first as John Doe, Mr. Jiménez arrived by ambulance at Martin Memorial, a not-for-profit hospital on the banks of the St. Lucie River in Stuart. He was unconscious and in shock from extensive bleeding, with two broken thigh bones, a broken arm, multiple internal injuries, a terribly lacerated face and a severe head injury. A doctor noted his prognosis as “poor.”

But Mr. Jiménez, after intensive surgical and medical intervention, survived. “He was no longer Luis; he was another person,” Montejo Gaspar Montejo, his cousin by marriage, said, describing a previously husky and industrious laborer who was also a soccer enthusiast. “He didn’t talk. He didn’t understand anything. He stayed curled up in a ball. But he was alive.”

During that time, Martin Memorial asked Michael R. Banks, a local lawyer who specializes in estate planning, to set up a guardianship for Mr. Jiménez. “I said, ‘Sure, what can come of such a case?’ ” Mr. Banks said. “Then it took on a life of its own. They probably regret they ever called me.”

Mr. Jiménez, whose common-law wife and two children remained in Guatemala, had been living for just under a year with Mr. Gaspar’s family. Mr. Gaspar, who works in golf-course maintenance, agreed to serve as guardian.

At first, things were amicable. In the summer of 2000, Mr. Jiménez was transferred to a nursing home in Stuart, which may have accepted him because an insurance payout was possible.

Mr. Flewellen, who eventually pleaded guilty to D.U.I. manslaughter, D.U.I. injury and grand theft auto, was not insured. But the Guatemalan families sought to hold the irrigation company liable since its employees left the keys in the car. Their lawsuit ultimately failed.

In the nursing home, Mr. Jiménez began wasting away. His relatives grew anxious. Then, Robert L. Lord Jr., Martin Memorial’s vice president of legal services, said, “Mr. Jiménez was put back on our doorstep.”

He arrived by ambulance, this time emaciated and suffering from ulcerous bed sores so deep that the tendons behind his knees were exposed. With infection raging, “the question to be answered is if the patient’s condition is terminal,” a doctor wrote in his file.

Again, Martin Memorial’s doctors provided life-saving care. Hospitals are mandated to treat and stabilize anyone suffering from an emergency medical condition, and the federal government does provide emergency Medicaid coverage for illegal and new immigrants.

But hospitals say that emergency Medicaid covers only a small fraction of those expenses: $80,000 in Mr. Jiménez’s case, according to court papers.

Mr. Jiménez remained in a vegetative state, coiled in a fetal position, for “one year, two months and 15 days,” Mr. Gaspar said with precision.

Stunning his relatives and medical officials, though, Mr. Jiménez gradually woke up and started interacting with the world. “One day,” Mr. Gaspar said in Spanish, “we arrived for a visit, and he said to me, ‘You are Montejo.’ ”

Not long afterward, the battle began between Martin Memorial and Mr. Gaspar, a reserved man whose Indiantown living room is decorated with a “We Love America” clock, a beach towel from the ancient city of Tikal and a hammered metal image of the Virgin Mary.

A Hospital’s Dilemma

The average stay at Martin Memorial, a relatively tranquil hospital which features a palm frond design in its gleaming lobby floor and white-coiffed volunteers in its gift shop, is 4.1 days and costs $8,188. Patients rarely linger.

Those like Mr. Jiménez who outstay their welcome are an oddity but not an anomaly. Mr. Jiménez had a roommate from Jamaica, a diabetic who lost both legs. Martin Memorial eventually flew him back to his native country, too.

In addition to trauma patients, there are uninsured immigrants with serious health problems. “In our emergency room, we don’t turn anyone away,” said Carol Plato Nicosia, the director of corporate business services. “The real problem is if we find an underlying problem, and now we have six of them ― six patients who showed up in renal failure and that we are now seeing three times a week for dialysis.”

One of the six, she said, voluntarily returned to Guatemala after receiving a poor prognosis. But she showed up at Martin Memorial again after her relatives insisted that she undertake the trek over the borders a second time because she could not get treatment in Guatemala, Ms. Plato Nicosia said.

“I don’t want to sound heartless,” Ms. Plato Nicosia said. “A community hospital is going to give care. But is it the right thing? We have a lot of American citizens who need our help. We only make about 3 percent over our bottom line if we’re lucky. We need to make capital improvements and do things for our community.”

Martin Memorial reported a total margin of 3.6 percent over its bottom line last year and 6 percent in 2006. According to the most recent statewide data, the nonprofit medical center also reported assets of $270.6 million in 2006, with its senior executives earning more than $4 million in salaries and benefits.

Tax-exempt hospitals are expected to dedicate an unspecified part of their services to charity cases, and Martin Memorial devoted $23.9 million in 2006, about 3 percent, which was average for Florida, according to state data.

Mr. Jiménez was a very expensive charity case. In cases like his, where patients need long-term care, hospitals are not allowed to discharge them to the streets. Federal regulations require them ― if they receive Medicare payments, and most hospitals do ― to transfer or refer patients to “appropriate” post-hospital care.

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