'We might ... close'


Last year, a Review-Journal report exposed the abuse of University Medical Center's emergency room by 80 illegal immigrants with failing kidneys. The dialysis treatments provided to these noncitizens costs more than $2 million per month, with the bills forwarded to Clark County taxpayers.

County commissioners and hospital administrators expressed frustration with the federal government's refusal to address illegal immigration and the burdens it places on the valley's only public hospital, which is required by federal law to help anyone in need of emergency care. Nevada's congressional delegation agreed the situation demanded a response.

Six months after that report, there's been a response, all right -- by illegals. The newspaper revealed Monday that 84 illegal immigrants now receive dialysis care at UMC -- about eight per day -- and as they get sicker, they cost Clark County taxpayers and UMC even larger sums of money.

All the public officials who spend your money and enable this crisis, meanwhile, still aren't talking to each other about the problem.

UMC leaders have yet to contact Mexico's consul in Las Vegas, despite his offer to try to provide help. Nevada's members of Congress -- especially its members of the Democratic majority -- haven't lifted a finger. And U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have yet to interview a single illegal immigrant receiving dialysis care.

"If this kind of thing goes on, we might have to close our doors," said Commissioner Lawrence Weekly, who chairs UMC's board of trustees.

This country expects legal immigrants to demonstrate the skills and health that ensure they won't become a drain on taxpayer resources. Yet its lawmakers and immigration authorities allow illegal residents to receive so much free health care that they imperil a public hospital's operations -- and the health of taxpaying citizens in the process.

"We need comprehensive immigration reform that includes a humanitarian provision where we can repatriate patients to their country of origin with the guarantee that care will continue once they are at home," Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., said of UMC's problems.

But there is nothing in existing immigration law to stop state and federal authorities from arranging the deportation of these noncitizens, and transportation to medical facilities in their home countries. Florida, Arizona and other states have already done so.

This is a lack of will, plain and simple. It is absolute cowardice.

No one expects ICE officials to storm UMC's emergency room, detach sick patients from dialysis machines, bus them to the Mexican border and dump them at the curb (and certain death). They must be made as healthy as possible before deportation, and provided with care during transport, if needed.

But how is it humanitarian to allow these illegals -- at 84 and growing -- to bankrupt a public hospital that provides the region's best trauma care?

County commissioners, members of Congress and ICE officials have known about this problem for six months. It they won't take action -- well-planned, compassionate action -- to relieve taxpaying citizens of this burden, then voters need to replace them with people who will.

 

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