The older Asian woman tugs insistently at the young blonde doctor’s coat, pulling her out into the pouring rain, talking in a foreign tongue.
The doctor, a new intern, is confused but following. What she finds shocks her: a young woman by the dumpster, face lacerated and in need of stitches.
The intern tries to convince the young woman to come inside, but in broken English she refuses. She’s afraid. She’s an illegal, as is her mother. There was an accident in the factory, could she please be stitched up?
Time slows and the intern faces her options. Just as fast, time snaps back into place and the intern slowly moves around the hospital, gathering the supplies she’ll need to stitch the laceration in the parking lot.
She gets the young woman, now her patient, to promise she’ll come back to have the stitches removed. The woman promises and disappears. She never comes back.
Chances are good that if you’re a fan of the television show Grey’s Anatomy, this scene is familiar to you. After all, it played out during a first-season episode, with Dr. Izzy Stevens as the young intern treating the illegal Asian immigrant.
Chances are also good that you’re aware that there is a large immigration rally this Monday afternoon.
Smell a coincidence? I didn’t think so.
Immigration — legal and illegal — is a contentious issue in our country. So it only made sense to talk about the issue of illegal immigrants and the strain placed on our medical system.
To be very clear on my position, I support immigration.
I think it should be easier to immigrate to this country. I think that if people honestly believe that if those farm and sweatshop workers just weren’t there Americans would step up and harvest those berries in the burning sun or spend hours a day over a sewing machine for low, low wages, they are, in a word, delusional.
Illegal immigration does more than impact the theoretical jobs available for Americans (legal immigrants or those born here).
It seriously impacts our hospitals, in two ways.
First, I suspect we have all been in the situation where we’re in the ER because we’ve been sick, or injured; perhaps you were kicked across the room during a slightly rowdy party, breaking your wrist.
But I digress. You sit in that waiting room, and you wait. Depending on what’s wrong, you wait.
Depending on the time of the day, and where you’re located, if you’re a non-emergency case, you can wait for quite a long time.
As many before me have pointed out, waiting often happens because people who don’t have insurance are using the ER as a place to receive basic medical care.
Any hospital in the United States that receives funding from Medicaid is required to treat any patient who appears in the ER.
What this means, practically speaking, is that anyone without insurance tends to end up in the ER to have non-emergency issues treated.
That person’s lack of payment is ultimately passed on to those who can pay. This is the second significant impact illegal immigrants have on our hospitals.
I don’t think this translates into throwing all the illegal immigrants out, locking down the country and building giant walls, and not just because it’s not terribly practical.
What I think this means, at least from a big and cuddly humanist point of view, is that we need to fix the system so illegal immigrants can pay into insurance policies and, even more importantly, not be afraid of accurately reporting address and other information to the hospital itself.
It might be woefully idealistic, but I believe that if we remove the fear of deportation, illegal immigrants will be more inclined toward providing accurate information and working with the hospital to cover medical costs.