Care for all regardless of status

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Undocumented immigrants and refugees have nothing to fear when getting medical care at any local hospital, said Dimitrios Alexiou, president and CEO of the Hospital Association of San Diego and Imperial Counties, a trade association that represents hospital members in San Diego and Imperial counties.

President Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric about immigration reform has many undocumented immigrants in the United States living with fears of possible deportation.

Taking a stand against the president’s treatment of immigrants, some cities have explored the idea of sanctuary city status, while other cities such as Encinitas and Lemon Grove recently passed resolutions declaring their cities a welcoming city, a gesture that prevents city employees, including police, from inquiring about immigration status while at the same time guaranteeing city services to all residents.

National City, the second oldest city in the county, in a contentious council meeting voted last month against a welcoming city resolution and agreed on a substitute resolution that is not as extensive as a Welcoming City.

The National City Police Department confirmed that Border Patrol agents conducted an immigration checkpoint on one of their busiest intersections at 30th Street and Highland Avenue Feb. 25.

Despite the president’s deportation threats, hospitals will be following the law in regards to equal treatment in medical assistance.

Alexiou said no matter if a person is a U.S. citizen, immigrant or refugee, they will not be turned away from seeing a doctor.

Alexiou said local hospitals follow federal law by providing aid to all people.

“Hospitals as are required with [ the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act] federal regulations treat everyone who comes through their door regardless of what their payer status might be or even immigrant status,” he said.

“Those aren’t questions that are asked in the process.”

He said there should not be a scenario where a hospital asks for immigration status for any of their patients.
Sharp HealthCare, with a hospital in Chula Vista, also said patient’s immigration status  does not affect their care.

“As a nonprofit healthcare provider, we are obligated to treat any and every individual who presents to our emergency department, regardless of insurance or immigration status,” Tom Hanscom, Director of Public Relations and

Communications for Sharp HealthCare wrote in an email. “Likewise, we do not ask a patient their immigration status…

In short, there is no difference between the treatment of immigrants or refugees than for any other patients.”

Alexiou said most immigrants who check into a local hospital do not have health insurance, but that does not interfere with them receiving the appropriate treatment.

“There is no difference [if a patient is an immigrant or not] in terms of level of [medical] care,” he said.

Alexiou said medical decisions are based on the reasons a patient checked-in to a hospital. He said in most cases, immigrants seeking medical help come through the emergency room.

He said once a patient has checked in, a hospital will determine the course of treatment, and whether or not it is an emergency or if it is something that could be more appropriately for a community clinic. Alexiou said that would be determined after a patient goes through the triage process.

Alexiou said as long as local hospitals are meeting federal law in administering aid to all of their patients –immigrants or not- federal funding should not be jeopardized.

Trump has threatened to withdrawal federal funding to cities who declare themselves Sanctuary Cities but Alexiou said hospitals will not get federal money pulled from them as long as they meet federal requirements in treating everyone who seeks assistance.

Alexiou said he has never seen immigration sweeps conducted at local hospitals but could not say whether or not a hospital can prevent sweeps from happening.

He said it is possible for immigrants to have concerns seeking medical aid because they fear a hospital may report them to the federal government, something  Alexiou said is not the case.

“That’s why relationships that hospitals have with their communities are built on trust,” he said. “Those are important relationships to a hospital.”

Care for all regardless of status