A look at immigrant patients deported by hospitals

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Jacinto Rodriguez Cruz, 49, leaves his home on a wheelchair with the help of his wife, Belen Hernandez in the city of Veracruz, Mexico. AP

DES MOINES, Iowa—Over the last five years, American hospitals have sent at least 600 immigrants who were in the US illegally back to their home countries to avoid paying for long-term care after serious illness or injury.

The Center for Social Justice at Seton Hall University has documented “medical repatriation” cases in 15 states involving patients from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Lithuania, Mexico, the Philippines and South Korea.

Here’s a look at some of the most dramatic examples from a report issued in December:

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Quelino Ojeda Jimenez was working atop a building at Chicago’s Midway Airport in 2010 when he fell, suffering injuries that left him nearly quadriplegic and reliant on a ventilator.

Advocate Christ Medical Center cared for Jimenez for four months, absorbing more than $650,000 in costs, according to a 2011 Chicago Tribune story.

Three days before Christmas that year, the hospital put him aboard a medical flight and sent him to Mexico, even though his family protested. Crying and unable to speak, Jimenez could do nothing to prevent his removal.

The receiving hospital in Mexico lacked rehabilitation services and could not afford new filters for his ventilator. After suffering two heart attacks and a septic infection, Jimenez died on Jan. 2, 2012.

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Luis Alberto Jimenez was working as a landscaper in Florida when the car he was in was struck by a drunk driver in February 2000.

Jimenez, then 35, suffered brain damage and other injuries and was treated at Martin Memorial Medical Center in Stuart, Fla., until June, when he was transferred to a nursing home.

The following January, he was readmitted to the hospital with an infection that doctors feared could be fatal. He stayed at the hospital for a year because no other long-term care provider would take him.

The hospital eventually filed a lawsuit in state court seeking permission to transport him to a hospital in his native Guatemala. A judge approved the flight in June 2003, and Jimenez was flown to Guatemala before the court could rule on an appeal filed by his legal guardian.

In mid-2004, the Florida District Court of Appeals overturned the lower court’s order, declaring that state courts do not have the authority to permit deportations, which are regulated by federal immigration law. But by then Jimenez had been returned home, bedridden and suffering from seizures, to live with his elderly mother in a remote area of Guatemala.

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Barbara Latasiewicz was working as a housekeeper in the Chicago area in 2009 when she had a stroke while scrubbing a bathtub. The Polish woman was paralyzed on her left side and needed around-the-clock care.

Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital tried to find her long-term care, but 30 facilities refused to take her because she was undocumented. Latasiewicz had overstayed a temporary visa after arriving in the U.S. in 1990.

The hospital allowed her to stay without insurance or any other way to pay for 2½ years at a cost of more than $1.4 million.

In early 2012, arrangements were made to transfer her to a stroke-specialty unit in Poland. She refused to consent to the transfer, which would permanently separate her from her son and grandchildren. The hospital obtained a judge’s order allowing her transfer to Poland.

A March 1 story in the Chicago Tribune says the 60-year-old woman cried while sitting in the airport awaiting a flight out, knowing she would probably never return to the US, which had been her home for more than 20 years.

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  • ketahburat

    What do you expect? He’s a “criminal alien” in the first place and who will pay for his medical bills?

  • riza888

    Cry me a river, taxpayers should not be obligated to pay medical bills for people who are in the US illegally!

    • kanoy

      Philippine hospitals hold both illegal and legal patients hostage in the hospital until the bill is paid…no bill is mailed…there really is no mail,,,,no monthly payment plans are offered or accepted no taxpayer money used to help pay for long term care and you WILL BE DENIED SERVICE even emergency if you can not prove your ability to pay
      US law FORBIDS ALL OF THE ABOVE you can not be denied service BUT once you are in STABLE CONDITION their requirement has met the law
      THAT LAW FAR SURPASSES EVERYTHING THE PHILIPPINES HAS TO OFFER
      to be a RP tourist you must prove and agree not to become a burden to the srate
      WHY SHOULD THE USA BE ANY DIFFERENT???????

    • ButuanCity

      I TOTALLY AGREE!

      BLACK IS BACK AND WHITE IS WHITE; LEGAL IS LEGAL AND ILLEGAL IS ILLEGAL. PLAIN AND SIMPLE!

  • kanoy

    AS I SAID
    To be a RP tourist you must prove your ability to financially support yourself

    and

    agree not to become a burden to the srate

    WHY SHOULD THE USA BE ANY DIFFERENT???????

    • darsmith

      I would like to believe that U.S.-based relatives (and/ or friends) who are capable of paying bills for their tourist friend/relative in the event the former gets into a severe medical condition during the tourist’s stay in the U.S. So what happens if a tourist falls into serious illness during his/her stay, with no relatives/ friends and is in no condition (i.e. stroke, coma, stc.) to get money (nor communicate) from his home country? Just asking. Thanks

      • salomeahmad

        There are medical insurances(i.e. BlueCross, Blue Shields) coverages you can get for the duration of your trip. This the proper way. If you can afford to be a tourist, then you should be able to afford this too.

      • darsmith

        Thanks for the advice, much appreciated

    • Sean Williams

      ayusin mo nga grammar mo ta-tanga tanga ka… “to be AN RP tourist” B0b0

  • rock_steady

    These people know too well the consequences of being an undocumented illegal alien. The chose to live that way, which by doing so, have accepted the fact that they can get deported any day they get caught. Those people are even lucky the US had to get them stable enough to be transferred out. At least they don’t arrive in a casket.

  • Hunter421

    Why should the hospitals or US taxpayers made to be responsible for illegal aliens’ medical bills? There’s too many illegals in the US and its bankrupting a good number of US states.

    • Crazy_horse101010

      that is one of the problems in california, they overwhelmed the system like schools welfare and medical. to many of them not paying taxes but getting a free ride.

  • WAUNAKEE

    Being an illegal alien in USA is a serious offense in the first place. The people cited in this report simply reached the ultimate end of their luck-they can run, but they cannot hide forever. They cannot have the best of both worlds!

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