NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

PUBLIC HOSPITAL IN EL PASO TREATING VICTIMS OF MEXICO DRUG VIOLENCE AT TAXPAYER EXPENSE

August 19, 2008

El Paso's Thomason Hospital is the only hospital within a 280-mile radius to offer state-of-the-art trauma care.  Consequently, Thomason has become an unwilling treatment center for law enforcement officials and others wounded in Mexico's drug turf battles, says the Los Angeles Times.

  • Thomason has treated 28 people wounded in Mexico, spending an estimated $1 million, according to hospital administrators.
  • Nineteen were U.S. citizens or had dual citizenship and the rest had legal permission to enter the country.

El Paso leaders are frustrated and angry at the cost and risks brought about by their unexpected guests:

  • Mexican officials have repaid the hospital fully for only one of the Mexican officers it has treated and made partial payment for another.
  • Thomason has gotten about $314,000 back from the patients, their employers, insurers and state and federal funding, according to hospital spokeswoman Margaret Althoff-Olivas.
  • Thomason administrators expect that most of its costs will have to be borne by the state and federal government, she said.

Thomason does not want to accept the patients but have no choice under federal law.  About half -- including the Nuevo Casas Grandes police chief, who had only a hand wound -- did not need the Level 1 trauma assistance provided.

Source: Miguel Bustillo, "Public hospital in El Paso treating victims of Mexico drug violence at taxpayer expense," Los Angeles Times/Dallas Morning News, August 18, 2008.

 

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