GALVESTON, Texas (CBS Houston) — A Texas medical facility is being accused of pressuring a paralyzed illegal immigrant to return to Mexico.
The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston has been treating Francisco Martinez for three months since a workplace injury left him paralyzed from the chest down.
Since Martinez does not have insurance, the hospital is trying to point him back to Mexico, according to his wife. Brandi Cullen Valderram, Martinez’s wife, told KHOU-TV that UTMB has been telling them that there’s no other option but for Martinez to return to Mexico, even offering the illegal immigrant a free flight back, which he doesn’t want to accept.
The matter is a complicated one for UTMB, though not an uncommon one, frequently occurring in the border states.
“Under state and federal laws, we are obligated to provide emergency treatment without regard to citizenship, legal status or ability to pay,” UTMB spokesman Raul Reyes told CBS Houston. “There are no reimbursement provisions to the laws. Such a patient admitted to a hospital can be discharged after he or she is stabilized, with a patient’s consent or when the patient’s condition requires a transfer to a facility better equipped to continue treatment.”
Galveston is still trying to improve some of its facilities and procedures in the wake of recent deadly storms, especially when Hurricane Ike devastated the area in 2008. There’s also the issue of hospitals being obligated to pay for uncompensated health care, which has had its funding tapped into by the state legislature to help balance the state’s budget.
This becomes a challenge when trying to assist situations like Martinez, said Joe Compian of Gulf Coast Interfaith, a group specializing in health care issues for families in the region.
“The community is still struggling to rebuild its emergency health care capacity,” he said. “We’re also in the unenviable position of Texas having the highest level of uninsured people in the country.”
Valderram tells the station that she and her son are staying in a shelter, while Martinez continues to be hospitalized.