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El Paso Children's Hospital spends $60,000 treating illegal immigrant children

By: Bill Melugin
EL PASO, Texas - El Paso hospitals are treating dozens of illegal immigrants for minor diseases, and a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official told KFOX14 the federal government is picking up the bill.

El Paso Children's Hospital spokeswoman Susie Byrd told KFOX14 the hospital saw between 50-60 immigrant children for different medical issues at an estimated price tag of $60,000.

"They all came in through the emergency room, and were later released back to CBP," she said. "We will be billing CBP for those services."

A spokesperson with Las Palmas Del Sol Healthcare told KFOX14 that as of Monday, Del Sol Medical Center treated 24 women and children immigrant patients since last week, and officials confirmed cases of scabies and lice. There have been no admissions to the hospital.

The spokesperson also told KFOX14 that Las Palmas Medical Center has seen 5-10 patients per day since last week, women and children only, and confirmed cases of scabies and lice as well. There have been no admissions to the hospital.

University Medical Center saw 11 patients on Sunday for various minor diseases, hospital spokeswoman Margaret Althoff-Olivas told KFOX14.

"UMC will be billing the Border Patrol for services provided," she said. "A medical screening entails taking a patient's vital signs and doing a general assessment of their overall condition. Due to patient privacy laws, I am unable to discuss the care that was provided to the immigrants yesterday."

UMC told KFOX14 one busload of immigrants will be transported to El Paso from the south Texas border every day for the next three weeks, and that the local hospitals will be switching off day to day on who provides medical screenings for them.

UMC, Del Sol, and Las Palmas told KFOX14 they don't have numbers yet on how much medical care for the immigrants will cost.

"Everyone is covered under MedPAR, it's a federal program run by ICE," said El Paso Sector Border Patrol spokesman Ramiro Cordero. "That's how we pay the hospitals. We screen everybody; If there's something our medics can't take care of, we have to take them to the hospitals."

MedPAR stands for Medical Payment Authorization Request. According to ICE, it is a web application which is maintained by ICE and used to authorize payment for medical, mental health, dental, and specialty services and equipment provided to detainees by outside specialists and facilities.

Before the outside services can be provided, medical personnel at the facility created a MedPAR request containing biographic information about the detainee, information about the medical condition being treated, and information about the referring provider and outside provider who is treating the detainee.

According to ICE, the detainee's medical provider is responsible for determining what treatment is medically necessary for a serious medical need and the MedPAR system approves payment for the requested service.

Cordero explained the process to KFOX14 in a phone conversation on Monday.

"Most of the migrants are coming in from south Texas, when they get here by plane or by bus, they are immediately given a medical screening by Customs and Border Protection agents," he said. "If there is an issue, they are taken to the hospitals, if not, they are turned over to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. They have to be medically cleared before they are turned over."

Cordero told KFOX14 many of the immigrants are simply walking up to border agents and turning themselves in rather than trying to jump or get around a border fence.

Along with scabies and lice, he said agents are seeing immigrants with fevers and diarrhea.

A Border Regional Advisory Council on Trauma meeting was held at Sierra Providence East Medical Center on Monday, though it was closed to the media and the public. A source sent KFOX14 photos of immigrant children being medically screened in blue tents right outside of the hospital.

As KFOX14 has reported, the Border Patrol in South Texas has been overwhelmed by an influx of unaccompanied children and parents traveling from Central American countries.

As a result, many of them are being transported to other areas in the Southwest, including El Paso.

 

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