Some Hospitals Treat Asylum-Seekers Like Criminals

With apprehensions of migrants rising at the southwest border, dozens daily are being taken to community hospitals. Medical providers are challenging practices by government agencies and their own hospitals that they say are endangering patients and undermining pledges to improve health care for migrants, reports the New York Times. The issues range from shackling patients to beds and not permitting them to use restrooms to pressuring doctors to discharge patients and certify that they can be held in crowded detention facilities that immigration officials themselves say are unsafe.

Physicians say needed follow-up care for long-term detainees is often neglected, and that they have been prevented from informing family members about the status of critically ill patients. “Doctors, who have a moral and ethical obligation and duty to care for patients, are actively being prevented from carrying out the practice of medicine as they’ve been trained to practice it,” said Kathryn Hampton of Physicians for Human Rights, a nonprofit advocacy group. The group documents  cases in which it said optimal health care was compromised by stepped-up immigration security. Banner-University Medical Center Tucson, like some others, has a policy that applies equally to immigration detainees and prisoners. It disallows bathroom privileges, requires at least two limbs to be secured to beds unless medically inadvisable, gives agents discretion over whether mothers may visit newborns and obliges law enforcement officers to remain with patients. Dr. Patricia Lebensohn, a family physician who has pressed for changes to the policy, said that constant supervision in a patient’s room “makes sense if you have a prisoner that’s convicted of murder, but this is a different population, especially the asylum seekers … They’re not criminals.”

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