Sunday, June 4, 2023

Court monitor warns of medical care issues at Border Patrol stations before girl’s death

MACLENN, Texas (AP) — A court-appointed monitor said in January that overcrowded Border Patrol stations could be ignoring child migrants placed in medical isolation, after an 8-year-old girl died of a heart condition. The accompanying warning issued five months earlier died in custody during an unusually busy period in the same Texas territory he oversaw.

Dr. Paul H. Wise, professor of pediatrics at Stanford University, called the death of Panama’s Anadith Tanay Reyes Alvarez “preventable” during an interview this week while on the scene in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley.

“There should be some hesitation to refer any child who is ill, but especially children with chronic problems, to local hospitals, preferably a children’s hospital or a hospital with good pediatric capabilities,” Vice told The Associated Press.

US Customs and Border Protection has acknowledged that the girl was seen by medical personnel at least three times on the day she died – complaining of vomiting, abdominal pain and pain that appeared to be a seizure – she before being taken to the hospital. CBP did not respond to a request for comment on Wise’s January report or his latest comments.

Wise wrote a lengthy report in January on Border Patrol detention conditions for children in the Rio Grande Valley and El Paso, Texas, which gave a satisfactory review in many cases but also flagged serious concerns. Last year, a federal judge asked him to investigate detention conditions in two busy areas under a 1997 court settlement to ensure the safe treatment of child migrants.

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Wise plans to submit a report soon on May 17 on the death of the girl, who died in custody on the ninth day after being transferred with her family to a station in Harlingen, Texas, where influenza was diagnosed. The agency limits detention to 72 hours as per its policy.

While his findings are not yet known — he declined to discuss them — some of his earlier warnings may be resurfaced.

Wise had earlier raised concerns about overcrowding of children in medical isolation. His January report describes how “one medical team” in El Paso was responsible for 125 sick patients, a number that “far exceeded” the team’s capabilities.

Wise said in January that the Border Patrol also struggles to meet the need for routine medical evaluations of children when children arrive with families and are in overcrowded stations.

“Repeat medical evaluation every 5 days is of paramount importance when families are being held for long periods of time in overcrowded conditions,” they wrote. However, due to other significant demands on available medical staff, this medical protocol is given a relatively low priority. under these conditions.”

Wise further raised concerns about chronic conditions and “relevant medical information” being undisclosed or not shared among employees.

The CBP’s relatively detailed public description of the girl’s time in custody does not directly address the need for exams every five days or how crowded the Harlingen station was when she was there.

A recently updated agreement for the El Paso and Rio Grande Valley regions clearly defines government responsibilities for children’s medical care. “CBP will immediately activate the 911 system or refer juveniles to the local health system when appropriate for evaluation and treatment. In addition, CBP will refer those juveniles with urgent or emergent medical issues to the local health system,” the agreement states. determines.

During his visit, Wise interviewed Anadith’s mother, Mabel Alvarez Benedicts, who told the AP that agents repeatedly ignored pleas for her medically fragile daughter to be hospitalized because she felt pain in her bones. She was having trouble breathing and was unable to walk.

Agents said her daughter’s diagnosis of influenza did not require hospital care, Benedix said. The mother said they knew the girl had a heart problem, but she was asked to return when she fainted.

CBP Acting Commissioner Troy Miller has since ordered a review of all medically vulnerable detainees to ensure limited time in custody. Wise said he spoke with US officials, including medical staff, to express concerns related to his recent travel.

“I have enough information at this point to make immediate recommendations to CBP, (Department of Homeland Security) and the court. And it will focus on the steps that, in my opinion, should be taken to ensure that CBP custody There are no preventable deaths of children in the world,” he said.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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