On February 10, while in a Texas detention facility, 27-year-old Sara Beltran Hernandez had a seizure and collapsed. She was rushed to Texas Health Huguley Hospital, a Seventh-day Adventist facility in Fort Worth.
Beltran Hernandez was in the United States seeking asylum from her home country of El Salvador which has been labeled the murder capital of the world and is ravaged by gang violence. She had been held for over 16 months in federal custody while she waited for a judge to rule on her asylum request before being transferred to the detention facility where she collapsed.
When she arrived at Huguley Hospital, doctors discovered a tumor in her pituitary gland. Though benign, the mass caused dizziness, pain, bloody noses, loss of appetite, and the seizure that landed her in the hospital.
According to a Washington Post report, Beltran Hernandez’s attorneys claim that “Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents…treated her like a dangerous criminal—shackling her, withholding information about her location and neglecting to provide her with adequate medical care.”
ICE issued a statement which read in part, “ICE takes very seriously the health, safety and welfare of those in our care. Comprehensive medical care is provided from the moment the families arrive and throughout their entire stay at the facility. Medical staffing for the residents includes registered nurses and licensed practical nurses, licensed mental health providers, mid-level providers that include a physician’s assistant and nurse practitioner, a physician, dental care, and access to 24-hour emergency care. For medical care that cannot be addressed by the on-site medical staff, the center will make arrangements for a resident’s specialized treatment at an outside facility.”
Beltran Hernandez’s family was notified of her collapse but was not told which hospital she had been transported to. Her petition for habeas corpus alleges that it took her attorney three days to find her at Huguley Hospital.
According to the Washington Post article, her attorney alleges, “ICE did not want to disclose her location, so her name did not appear on the list of patients, making it impossible to contact her.”
After approximately two weeks at Huguley, Beltran Hernandez was transferred back to the detention facility. Her attorneys expressed concern that the detention facility could not adequately meet her medical needs. ICE maintained that her medical needs were being met.
When asked to comment on the situation, Elijah Bruette, Huguley Hospital’s Director of Business Development & Community Relations, responded with the following statement:
The health, safety and privacy of each patient for whom we are entrusted to care is our top priority. Please understand we are required to comply with HIPAA and [are] therefore not allowed to discuss details about any patient’s care.
A patient’s residency status – whether they are an undocumented immigrant, a political refugee, a permanent legal resident, or someone born and raised here in the United States – would never impact their medical care or whether they are allowed to see family, have access to the phone, or visits from the chaplain. Regardless of any person’s status in the community, we are people serving people as those we love the most.
In situations that involve law enforcement, it is at the discretion and authority of the officers present, not the hospital, as to who has access to the patient beyond the care team.
Every time a patient is discharged from our facility, whether it is a transfer to a higher-level of care, post-acute care, discharge home or otherwise, the physician has determined a plan for the continuity of care. The plan includes appropriate follow-up appointments scheduled with the providers who are able to meet the needs of the patient.
At Texas Health Huguley, we care deeply about our patients, our community and our team members. We continue to pray for the health and wellbeing of this patient.”
With the help of Amnesty International, Beltran Hernandez’s case garnered national attention, and she received a hearing on March 2 where she was released on bond. According to the LA Times, the hearing was brief and bond was set at $15,000.
After undergoing medical examinations to ensure she was fit to travel, Beltran Hernandez was allowed to reunite with her mother in New York on March 3. She told the New York Daily News she was thankful to God. It had been 16 years since Beltran Hernandez last saw her mother.
Alisa Williams is Managing Editor of SpectrumMagazine.org.
Image Credit: www.adventisthealthsystem.com
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