Deportation of Immigrants by Hospitals

Hospitals in the United States experience numerous challenges with one of them being that of treating undocumented immigrants who do not have insurance and cannot afford to pay for health care using cash. The hospitals may sometimes feel overwhelmed when they take care of these patients for a prolonged period of time because they use a lot of their resources. This is what happened to Martin Memorial Hospital when they started taking care of Luis, an immigrant who has suffered a severe accident. After feeling that the patient was overwhelming their resources, the hospital deported Luis, an act that has triggered debates on how immigrants should be treated. The act by Martin Memorial affects mostly the government and hospitals and it may also have a severe effect on the quality of health care in the country; that is if a solution for this problem is not found on time. An enquiry into the case of Luis versus Martin Memorial may help in finding an efficient solution to the problem.

The Challenge Faced by Martin Memorial Hospital

Martin Memorial Hospital is facing a legal issue of illegal deportation that was caused by the organization’s act of deporting Luis Martinez. Martinez was an illegal immigrant in the US and he started receiving treatment in the hospital in the year 2000 after a deadly accident that severely damaged his brain. However, Luis was an illegal immigrant in the US from Guatemala meaning he did not have health insurance that could cover his medical expenses. Having spent $1.5 million on taking care of Luis, the hospital felt that the patient was straining their resources (Sontag, 2008). On realizing that Luis required long term medical care and that he would not afford to pay for it, the hospital decided to deport him back to Guatemala through the permission of a court order and an agreement with the Guatemalan government. However, on reaching home, the health care that Martinez received was below the standards that Martin Memorial Hospital had set and this led to the worsening of his health condition.

The deportation of Martinez led to problems for the hospital when the case of deporting Martinez was declared illegal by a court of appeal. The court ruled that the previous judges who had issued the hospital with permission to deport the patient did not have the jurisdiction to do so and that their ruling was improper. The court of appeal stated that hospitals have an obligation to take care of patients who need long term medical care whether they are in the country legally or illegally (Sontag, 2008). Considering the decision of the court of appeal, the organization is required to take back Martinez or pay for his long term care in a facility that can handle his problems. However, the fact that the hospital feels that this may over stretch their resources means that the organization is in a dilemma. Taking back Luis may be very expensive and refusing to take him back may be considered unlawful and discriminative.

Stakeholders who are affected by the Challenge

The issue that is facing the hospital affects numerous stakeholders. These include the management of Martin Memorial Hospital, the government, all other hospitals that have experienced a similar situation and the immigrants who live in the US and would need medical treatment. Martin Memorial and other hospitals are affected by the challenge because it has an effect on how the organizations will continue treating foreign patients who do not have insurance. For example, the managers of Martin Memorial Hospital are affected in that they have to find new sources of capital to enable them to take care of patients like Luis who cannot afford to pay for health care despite their conditions. The government also has a hand in this problem because it is in charge of making laws in the country. For example, the state currently has a rule that requires hospitals to take care of patients with acute health problems until their condition becomes stable. According to this rule, hospitals must treat everyone whether the patients have insurance or not as long as the health problem is an emergency (Dwyer, 2009).

Implications of the Challenge on Health Care in America

According to Fernandez-Kelly and Portes (2013), immigrants are always afraid of seeking healthcare in the United States because of lack of documentation. The lack of documents makes the immigrants to fear to go to hospital because they are afraid that they might be deported back to their poor countries (Sullivan & Zayas, 2013). Therefore, these individuals seek alternative channels of getting healed instead of going to hospital. However, with the new rule that hospitals are not supposed to deport immigrants who cannot afford to pay for emergency care, it is clear that the fear of most immigrants has been eliminated. These individuals will therefore seek health care whenever they have an emergency and this will improve their health.

Although more people will be able to access health care, the quality of health care in the country may decline (Fernandez-Kelly & Portes, 2013). This is because the resources of hospitals may be over stretched when they are forced to take care of people who cannot afford to pay for the services they receive. The institutions may in turn seek ways of cutting on the cost they incur and this may jeopardize the quality of their services and products.

Solutions for the Challenge

Dwyer (2009) argues that the solution to the deportation of immigrants by hospitals require need to consider the situation of the patient as well as the hospital. For example, the federal government should increase the funds that it contributes to the health care of immigrants who receive medical care in the US hospitals. This is because it is the same government that has created an obligation on hospitals to treat patients with acute problems even if they do not have health insurance (Sullivan & Zayas, 2013). This is fair because for both hospitals and patients because the immigrants will be able to access medical help without fear while hospitals will comfortably provide high quality health care to the foreigners.

Personal Ideas on how to Solve the Challenge

Personally, I think that the federal government should take the responsibility of curbing illegal immigration in the country. This is because it is the failure of the government to perform this function efficiently that has led to the dilemma in hospitals. If the state had carried out its function efficiently, then there would be no illegal immigrants in the country and this would mean that hospitals would not have to take care of foreigners who cannot afford to pay for the services they receive. The government should also partner with the states from where immigrants originate so that these countries may also contribute to the health care that their citizens receive in the US. Such partnership will prompt the other countries to develop rules that prevent emigration.

I also believe that the documentation of immigrants who have already settled in the country may help to solve this problem. This is because when they have documents that enable them to be recognized, then they may even be able to subscribe to health care insurance programs. The subscription to health insurance may enable these individuals to access high quality health care without over whelming their care givers. The documentation of these individuals will also help hospitals to receive more funding from the government as specified by the new law that is known as the Obama Care.

The case of Martinez versus Martin Memorial Hospital has sparked a lot of debates on whether illegal immigrants should be deported back to their countries or whether they should be taken care of by hospitals even if they cannot afford to pay. This case affects numerous stakeholders including the government, the management of Martin Memorial Hospital and the other hospitals that experience similar cases. The court ruling that barred hospitals from deporting sick immigrants may cause the decline of the quality of health care in the country if an efficient solution to the problem is not found early. One of the solutions would be increasing of the funds that the state releases to hospitals to help them take care of immigrants. This may be fair for both the hospital and the patient. Another solution would be that of curbing illegal immigration in the country because it will help to avoid such problems like that of Luis in the future.

 

References

Dwyer, J. (2009). When the discharge plan is deportation: hospitals, immigrants, and social responsibility. Bioethics, 23, 3.

Fernández-Kelly, M. P., & Portes, A. (2013). Health care and immigration: Understanding the connections. New York: Routledge.

Reader, C. (2013). Summary of Another Man’s Sombrero. Cork: Primento Digital.

Sontag, D. (2008). Immigrants facing deportation by US hospitals. Global health. Retrieved from https://www.med.upenn.edu/globalhealth/documents/ImmigrantsFacingDeportationbyU.S.Hospitals-Series-NYTimes.com.pdf

Sullivan, J. E., & Zayas, L. E. (2013). Passport biopsies: hospital deportations and implications for social work. Social Work, 58, 3, 281-4.