There’s a lot of political rhetoric and media attention currently surrounding the influx of unaccompanied immigrant children illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The U.S. government puts the count of unaccompanied children at more than 50,000 and anticipates that as many as 90,000 will eventually cross the border this year.
Amidst it all, Texas hospitals are doing what we always do: Treating patients who come through our doors with professionalism, respect and compassion and providing the best care possible.
Hospitals in the Rio Grande Valley and in El Paso are working with U.S. immigration officials as they medically screen and vaccinate children and identify those who require more comprehensive medical care. By all accounts, the process from screening and processing to possible hospital care is going smoothly, albeit slowly because of the large numbers of children. Reportedly, screenings are discovering routine childhood ailments that hospitals are able to manage on an outpatient basis but nothing out of the ordinary or threatening to public health.
Federal law requires that these children, most of whom are from Central America, not be immediately deported and that they receive a deportation hearing. Given the large number of children and the already existing backlog in the legal system, it is likely that these children will remain the U.S. for the foreseeable future.
Texas hospitals will continue to provide medical care to these children, many of whom have never received regular health care before. As these children are placed in residential facilities or with family members around the state and the rest of the nation, hospitals in communities far from the border will be affected.
THA has set up a resource page on its website to provide the most current and relevant information for hospitals and will continue to update it as more information becomes available. Staff is also in contact with members of Congress and other state and federal officials. THA’s priority is making sure hospitals receive timely reimbursement for services provided and are not overwhelmed by caring for these children. So far there appears to be no cause for alarm, but THA will be your advocate if difficulties emerge.
I know how easy it is to get tangled up in the politics of issues like this, but Texas hospitals always put patients first. Doing right by our patients is what we do every day and that won’t change.