Free Clinic Says Adios to Undocumented Patients

Jeremy Aldrich -- June 20th, 2008

At its May board meeting, the Harrisonburg Rockingham Free Clinic decided to cut off services to patients without legal status (confirmed through either a Social Security number or other documentation of legal residency), effective July 1. About 100 current patients, representing about 10% of the clinic’s case load, will be effected affected by the change.

Executive Director Rich Sider says that the board decided to limit participation in the free clinic based on feedback from some volunteers and other medical providers who were concerned about the amount of resources going to people who aren’t here legally. Sider also says that drug companies which donate pharmaceuticals require a Social Security number from recipients. Sider says they do not have resources to determine whether documents presented are valid or not, but that new patients without documentation will not receive services after their initial eligibility screening.

The clinic notified current patients via a letter which also suggested other avenues for health care, none of which are free, such as the new Community Health Center, RMH outpatient services, and Cooks Creek Clinic which charges a flat fee for services.

Although there is not currently a waiting list for services, Sider says that the change will allow the clinic to have more capacity and take on different patients.

Sider says, “The board felt the risks of continuing to serve this population were significant given the feedback we’ve received.” He added that whichever direction they had decided, some volunteers and staff would have been unhappy, but he does not anticipate any reduction in the level of donations from the community to the clinic.

118 Responses to “Free Clinic Says Adios to Undocumented Patients”

  1. finnegan says:

    Where did you hear that? What ER nurse is going to turn away a woman in labor?

    I would be very suspicious of rumors like that.

  2. Emmy says:

    It wasn’t an idle rumor, but I’d rather not go into a lot of detail. The person was not turned away in labor, but told during the pregnancy that they were to go to UVA because RMH would not take them. I don’t remember who told her this, but the person who told me was trying to help her out because she was alone and scared. It could have been miscommunication between the woman and the doctor, but she did go to UVA to have her baby. Its been a while, but I don’t think she received very much prenatal care either.

    At the time I didn’t really question it because I figured that was something that a private hospital could decide to do (my own lack of knowledge on the subject) so since it has come up here I thought I’d see if it were actually legal. Perhaps this woman just ran into a doctor with some issues with undocumented immigrants.

  3. Kai says:

    “I would point out that if volunteers are VOLUNTEERING, they are free to provide (or choose not to provide) services to any one (or group).”

    If I had a lemonade stand and asked for volunteers to staff it to serve a cold drink to whoever wants a cold drink, and a couple volunteers said they didn’t want to serve a cold drink to a certain group of people, I’d have the prerogative to say, “Well, thanks for helping, but I’ll find someone who will help me serve who I want to serve.”

  4. Dave Briggman says:

    That may be true, Kai, but then practicing medicine or dentistry takes a lot more education, skill, and government licensing than does finding someone to serve lemonade for you.

    Try again, please.

  5. Misfit410 says:

    Since Bible verses are being thrown around, I have one to add.

    “Verily, verily (that is, “in truth, in truth”), I say to you, if any one does not go into the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, it is a sign that he is a thief and a robber.”

  6. John says:

    Responses from a former Free Clinic volunteer to Dave Briggman’s comments:

    “If illegal aliens weren’t in this country, they wouldn’t be a burden on this country’s citizenry — PERIOD.”

    Do you have any idea who the real burden in this area is? I’ll tell you, LAZY fat rednecks that come to the free clinic; they’re so comfortable living off the government that they do NOT want to find legit jobs. I’ve seen them, they work and get cash under the table in order to avoid income records against their Social Security (which would automatically eliminate Federal Unemployment Benefits). Undocumented aliens, at least contribute 6.5% of their paychecks to Social Security, plus the other regular fed and state taxes. Now who’s the burden?

    “I don’t want my kids, family, parents (whatever) to go without because we’re paying taxes to support people who should be within these borders.”

    But you’re comfortable supporting lazy Americans living off the government, right? If so, you’re contradicting yourself (see your statement above about “burden on this country’s citizenry”)

    “I would point out that if volunteers are VOLUNTEERING, they are free to provide (or choose not to provide) services to any one (or group).”

    Well, let me tell you son, you’re wrong. Many of us were NOT free to provide services to anyone we wanted. As a matter of fact, I have witnessed selective discrimination; we were suddenly not able to provide service to Mexicans, and we were not allowed to ask rednecks, for example, if they had been recently looking for a job, receiving WIC, etc.

    I think you’re confused or at least don’t know the whole story about the volunteers. Many of us did not discriminate immigrants, and that includes all the JMU Spanish interpreters.

  7. finnegan says:

    The DNR finally did a story on this today.

  8. Brooke says:

    “Since Bible verses are being thrown around, I have one to add.

    “Verily, verily (that is, “in truth, in truth”), I say to you, if any one does not go into the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, it is a sign that he is a thief and a robber.””

    If you’re going to quote Scripture you might want to keep it in context. That’s talking about the metaphorical sheepfold of Christ’s body of believers. This is purely a spiritual metaphor, and nothing whatsoever to do with immigration.

    AND in addition to the passage Jeremy already quoted, I would add:
    Ex 22:21 “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt.”

    Dt 10:19 “And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.”

    Now, I’m not a big believer in pushing spiritual beliefs into law, BUT I do see that many of the people going on and on (and ON) about illegal immigrants often seem to be of the Christian persuasion, so these verses are meant to address (and if necessary, check) our attitudes, versus any specific public policy.

    Who would Jesus deport?

  9. eso says:

    Another story about health care system and illegals:

  10. Brooke says:

    Interesting article, especially the last part, where they tried to deport a *legal* insinsured immigrant…

    In a case this spring that outraged Phoenix’s Hispanic community, St. Joseph’s planned to send a comatose, uninsured legal immigrant back to Honduras, until community leaders got lawyers involved. While they were negotiating with the hospital, the patient, Sonia del Cid Iscoa, 34, who has been in the United States for half her life and has seven American-born children, emerged from her coma. She is back in her Phoenix home.

    I’m sorry, but that’s just out of line, period, and I’m glad they were unsuccessful. Can you imagine having your mother, who is here legally, and could wake up from her coma at any time, sent to a country she hasn’t lived in for decades, and you’ve never been to?

  11. Draegn88 says:

    Brooke if you think that an uninsured person should be allowed to soak up hospital resources, kindly pay for them out of your pocket.

    The article did not mention how long she was a patient. For all we know Iscoa might have been laying there for years. Hospitals are only required to provide reasonable care, not unlimited.

  12. Brooke says:

    So what, you think we should start deporting LEGAL residents of our country because they’re uninsured? What if this was an uninsured anglo resident? Would you deport them, too? Would you prefer they pull the plug all together? This particular woman’s case, the one I’m citing from the end of the article, was not an immigration issue. Period. It was an issue of being uninsured, and should be treated as ANY other case where an uninsured legal resident/citizen of our country is in a coma.

  13. Draegn88 says:

    Brooke did you read the entire article?

    from page 2:

    “Unlike Iscoa and Jiménez, most uninsured immigrant patients in repatriation cases do not have advocates fighting for them, and they are quietly returned to their home countries. Sometimes, their families accept that outcome because they are told they have no options; sometimes they are grateful to the hospital for paying their fare home, given that other hospitals leave it to relatives or consulates to assume responsibility for the patients.”


    Have you ever been outside the US? Or for that matter outside Virginia?

    If you travel to another country and become sick and/or injured, you will be provided with whatever care is necessary to keep you alive until you are returned to the US. The host nation hospital will contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate and they will take care of any bills that you may incur. (If you do not have the ability to pay then and there or travellers insurance) When you return home, you will then be presented with a bill from the government for the cost of whatever services you recieved.

    All of this is covered under UN treaty. But no some Americans like you want to be the liberal save the world do-gooders. The problem is that you want someone else to pay for it. No thank you. If you want to help the world pay for it out of your pocket or shut up.

  14. David Miller says:

    But no some Americans like you want to be the liberal save the world do-gooders. The problem is that you want someone else to pay for it. No thank you. If you want to help the world pay for it out of your pocket or shut up.

    I’ll vote for universal healthcare and you can double my taxes because I call myself human. What word would you use for yourself?

  15. David Miller says:

    “Brooke if you think that an uninsured person should be allowed to soak up hospital resources,”

    Sorry, I should have quoted your lack of humanity

  16. JGFitzgerald says:

    “[S]ome Americans like you want to be the liberal save the world do-gooders.”

    Yes, actually, we do. You put that very well. (Although I would have hyphenated “save-the-world” and put a comma before it.) And we would just as soon have our taxes pay for it as to have them spent deporting helpless people.

    Go figure.

  17. Dave Briggman says:

    We know JGF has never served in the military, I’m assuming that you, Miller, have also chosen not to partake in military service…

    If you had, you’d not be blowing the horn for socialized healthcare as you are, here, so vociferously.

    No citizen in this country should BE FORCED to pay taxes in order to provide health insurance for others, but I believe that the General Assembly of Virginia created an account where you can donate revenues to the Commonwealth, over and above your tax liability.

    Why not step up, Miller, and write the Commonwealth a check?

    In the meantime, I’ll see if Chris Saxman can determine the current balance in that account.

  18. JGFitzgerald says:

    BS, Briggman. government isn’t a charity. That’s what I pay taxes for. Am I paying less in taxes than you do for the government entities necessary to regulate child support and gun ownership? We don’t get to pick and choose.

    By the way, serving in the military gives you a different experience. It doesn’t make you any smarter.

  19. Dave Briggman says:

    BS what, Joe?

    Actually, Joe, for every dollar I pay in child support (and I pay 519 of them a month), the federal government pays Virginia $.66…thus, the federal government grants Virginia the amount of $342/month solely for Virginia cashing a check and reissuing a check in the same amount to my ex-wife.

    The experience we in the military have had is with a program that would be akin to socialized medicine…ask a veteran who has has experience in the military medical system, if you know any, and I am almost positive such experience was unpleasant at best.

  20. Emmy says:

    I know a vet who still uses the military medical system. He seems to prefer it because he certainly has other options that would cost him little to no money. He has fantastic insurance.

  21. JGFitzgerald says:

    BS to picking and choosing what government services we support and sending donations to those, or to the idea that support for a particular government program should be proven by paying a personal surcharge.

    I lived in an area that had a lot of military retirees, and that was considered a good posting for military families, because of the quality of health care available there. Perhaps I would have felt different if I’d been in the military, but they didn’t.

  22. Dave Briggman says:

    There’s no constitutional right to healthcare, be it free or not, Joe. When healthcare enters into the Constitution, come back and talk to me about paying for healthcare for anyone except those I choose to pay for.

  23. JGFitzgerald says:

    Obviously you can take the word “healthcare” out of the comment about constitutionality and replace it with just about anything that’s not specifically mentioned in the original document. I would think health care would fall under promoting general welfare, but others may disagree.

  24. Dave Briggman says:

    Joe, before liberals came about with Roosevelt’s “New Deal”, people in need were largely cared for by their local churches if they needed the types of aid…now, because of those who insist on mooching off of their fellow man, much of what the churches have done has now switched to “services”…paid fo by everyone.

    By the way, Joe. Being a student of the word as you are, you would obviously know that welfare meant “well being” as in “fare well”, happiness, prosperity, etc.

  25. Emmy says:

    Aren’t you happier and more prosperous if you are healthy and not worried about how you are going to pay for your medical care? I know I am.

  26. JGFitzgerald says:

    Yes, Dave, I know that welfare means well-being. But thank you anyway.

  27. eso says:

    I’m a little uncomfortable with a hospital administrator making the decision who will be (essentially) deported. They don’t have access to the INS/ICE et. al. data. Then again, the government has abandoned the hospital with the illegal problem.

    Other than that, sure provide emergency care only for them and return them home. I just don’t see how there can be any controversy. Someone invaded our country and made it on our soil, now we have to provide them a lifetime of specialized care? That idea is just asinine. Sure I feel sorry for them, but we need to take care of our country first before we start providing medical care to the whole continent or world.
    The hospital has to pay the staff, equipment, and other overhead needed to take care of them. Our government isn’t going to pay those bills for the illegals. That leaves other patients having to pay to extra to support them.

    I have traveled to foreign countries. Not as many as some of you apparently, but around 5+ times. I traveled to participate in what some ( mistakenly ) consider a high risk sport. It is *highly* recommended you carry your own insurance when traveling in a foreign country. Either per-trip or an sport association or whatnot. Some standard policies won’t extend beyond the US and some won’t cover specialized care for “high risk” activities Most countries may provide emergency care — they wouldn’t get as many tourist if they didn’t have some facilities and treatment — and charge you. But if you need long term, high skill treatment you’d be out of luck. Think the local doctor or hospital will see you about a cold, ear infection, or high blood pressure without payment or insurance? Good luck with that. If you die in a foreign country they probably won’t even return your body unless you pay – many travel insurance policies have to provide “repatriating remains” benefit because it is needed. And we are suppose to provide long term, specialized care for people here illegally? No way. We take care of our own first.

  28. David Miller says:

    Just tuned back into the thread to discover the character attacks. First Dave; I love how you make assumptions. There’s an old saying about those. But………… I must know who pays taxes that fund your children’s education? I DO. Is it in the Constitution that I must? NOOOOOOOOO but seeing as how it provides for an educated public/workforce that I will eventually see a return on in the form of a better country, a better neighbor and a more productive and valuable labor pool then I’m quite alright with that. The difference is that I accept that my tax dollars going to educate children is OK, I’m fine with that. You on the other hand should write the government a check for all that socialized education you’ve ripped me off for and then I’ll consider writing a check for your children’s health care

    Don’t you see how this works, each man for themselves means that I’m in it for me and you’re in it for you. As much as you may believe that this is how the world works, you are wrong. We call this human development CIVILIZATION. Welcome, we’re still improving so please bear with us. Just ask any sociologist what the term Social Compact means. It will help in your understanding of this concept.

  29. Emmy says:

    I think Dave’s kids might go to private school. I could be wrong though. For as much as he complains about public school I’d be surprised if they did.

    But David, your words are SPOT ON!

  30. Brooke says:

    Well said, Dave Miller.

    And Daegn, yes I DID read the article, and I think that if someone is here, on our soil, and they get sick and need care, the human, civilized thing to do is treat them, ESPECIALLY if they are here legally, have been here, paying taxes, half their life (as this woman was) and their children were born here and have lived their whole life here. I am not understanding how on God’s green earth you would think it would be ok to send her back to her “home country” when she’s been living here, legally, for half her life, and separate her from her children, or force them to live in a country they’ve never seen.

    Maybe you’re ok with throwing people in need to the street corner, or sending them to places where they’re not likely to be given any care at all, and saying, “Well, too damn bad, you’re not MY problem.” But I am not.

    So, you can call me a do-gooder, liberal, or whatever you’d like. My vote counts the same as yours and I will use my vote to help take care of those who need a helping hand, as WELL as my own money, because I’m with Joe, I think that’s part of promoting the general welfare (meaning well being) of the people who live in this country.

  31. David Miller says:

    By the way ESO, “We take care of our own first.” you are very incorrect because we really don’t take care of our own even. I could give you million examples but I assume that you can do that on your own.

  32. Brooke says:

    And virtually all of those “we (don’t) take care of our own”examples involve the very same rationale: “it’s not MY problem you [got pregnant, lost your job, can’t get adequate health insurance, got injured, need health care but can’t afford it], so why should I have to pay for [insert whatever it is the person needs]. I got mine, so too damn bad. me, me, me. mine, mine, mine. Get your own.” mentality.

  33. Draegn88 says:

    Brooke, here is another thread with a different view of Sonia del Cid Iscoa.

    “Iscoa is legally in the country under temporary protected status. Sharon Rummery, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spokeswoman, said temporary protected status can be granted to people who are in the United States without valid immigration status when a catastrophe happens in their home country.”

    One comment from the thread:

    17 years in the U.S. on a TEMPORARY visa, seven (7!) kids, no husband?

    If she has lived in the United States for more than 17 years, but has been in the country legally since 1998, (10 years) does this mean she was here illegally for 7 years before obtaining her “valid” visa?”

    Brooke how long is temporary supposed to be?

    Anyone? Why should we be responsible for another person’s actions? Brooke’s example of a woman becoming pregnant. It is the woman’s and her lover’s problem. Not yours or mine. Someone chooses not to have health care. They get sick, that’s their problem.

    Why is there a need to give someone an excuse so that they do not have to be responsible for their actions? You do not solve problems by throwing money at them. There will come a time when those who are human, who show compassion and understanding, will have to make a choice between their families and strangers. Where will the humanity be then?

  34. Brooke says:

    Very few people “choose not to have health care.” Many, many, MANY people simply cannot afford it, especially as health care costs sky rocket. And even some who are INSURED can be easily bankrupted by long-term health care costs.

    I don’t care if all 7 kids have different fathers. That has nothing to do with whether or not she should be deported. And as a cleaning lady who is an immigrant, she probably did not get insurance, let alone adequate insurance to cover something like this.

    I found it notable that in another article the hospital said that it was forced to do this because of how the law is written and is hoping the law will change, so even the hospital would disagree with you. ;-)

    There will come a time when those who are human, who show compassion and understanding, will have to make a choice between their families and strangers. Where will the humanity be then?

    So we, “who are human, who show compassion and understanding” should show no compassion now because at some point in the future we might have to choose between being compassionate and our families?

    This is your logical argument? Really?

    The way I was brought up, you come across someone who needs help, you do whatever you can to help them. That may be a lot, that may be a little. But you show compassion and you try to help. You don’t send them away to become someone else’s problem.

  35. Deb SF says:

    Dave’s kids may go to private school, but Dave has attended BRCC, and thus has personally enjoyed tax-payer subsidized tuition.

    Libertarians don’t seem acknowledge the public-good aspects of public health care, analogous to the public-good benefits of education that Dave Miller mentions above; it seems to be a matter of individual benefit vs. individual cost for them. Ideological arguments aside, the way we run our health care system is just inefficient. We spend more than twice as much as most of the rest of the developed world, yet we cover a much lower percentage of our people and have a higher rates of illness and death for preventable diseases.

  36. Draegn88 says:

    Brooke, other posters chose to define themselves as human… whatever. We live in a world of limited resources. There is only so much that you can do. When it comes down to it, you will have to make a choice. Will you feed Africa, or the hungry in Harrisonburg? Will you give to fight disease in the third world, or Harrisonburg?

    People will always choose those they are familiar with over a stranger. And, this may involve ethnocentricity, nationalism, nativism, or racism. That’s how things are.

    I do agree with Deb, our healthcare system is poorly run and managed. In part because we concentrate on letting people have all the fun they want while they’re young and then taking care of the results of their wanton lifestyles. Instead we should be taking preventive measures throughout a person’s lifetime to prevent catastrophic results at the end.

  37. Brooke says:

    People will always choose those they are familiar with over a stranger. And, this may involve ethnocentricity, nationalism, nativism, or racism. That’s how things are.

    That may be how it is for you, but not everyone thinks that way – thankfully.

    If you don’t agree with these things, you certainly have a right to your opinion, and have the right to vote against such measures, when they come up for vote, but understand that not everyone feels the same way you do, and they very well may vote differently on such matters. I know I will.

  38. DinTN says:

    Since you quoted me from ALIPAC,
    I’m very happy that you can afford to provide for the world’s uninsured health care. Feel free to pick up the tab any time you like, but you assume that we all have unlimited resources that you enjoy, but we don’t.

    “I don’t care if all 7 kids have different fathers. That has nothing to do with whether or not she should be deported.”
    Deportation aside, does it not have anything to do with whether or not WE have to foot the bill? After all, this is about healthcare, not deportation.

    “And as a cleaning lady who is an immigrant, she probably did not get insurance, let alone adequate insurance to cover something like this.”

    So we should? Our hospitals should continue to be strapped for resources and shutting down? As an UNEMPLOYED cleaning lady, the visa should have been revoked when she stopped working.

    Emmy says:
    “Perhaps this woman just ran into a doctor with some issues with undocumented immigrants.”

    No such person as an “undocumented immigrant”
    All immigrants have documents. Legal immigrants have legal documents, illegals have more documents than I do; theirs are either stolen or fake.

  39. Brooke says:

    DinTN – you’re the one who brought up the 7 children and no husband, so I think it’s fair to say I don’t think it’s relevant to EITHER topic, and it’s an unnecessary jab at the woman.

    And no, I didn’t quote you. I quoted a post from someone else who quoted you. I’m a little curious how you even know that someone quoted a *comment* you made on another blog.

  40. DinTN says:

    How many children an immigrant has while in this country illegally is very relevant to our health care system. An average of 300,000 anchor babies born in this country to illegals each year, at taxpayer expence, is not relevant? I guess you do not know how many hospitals, most in California, have closed down due to illegals. This leaves Americans with the difficulty of traveling farther away just to find an emergency room that is still open.

    “And no, I didn’t quote you. I quoted a post from someone else who quoted you. I’m a little curious how you even know that someone quoted a *comment* you made on another blog.”
    How do I know? Well, you got me there, because I don’t even understand your logic on that one.

  41. JGFitzgerald says:

    I give up. How many California hospitals have closed down?

  42. Draegn88 says:

    Here you go Joe,

    the cost of illegals
    88 hospitals have closed in Southern CA due to the expense of caring for illegal aliens.
    The burden of entire countries who are corrupt and hold the very rich oil money in the hands of a few families (ie Mexico) put onto the average American citizen is getting too much to bear.
    I never thought I would say this but I am beginning to feel sorry for Americans. Their jobs are being outsourced, they have no medical coverage while paying through the nose for foreigners who come from rich oil countries like Mexico. They have no representation in government and there are very wealthy “elites” who want to give their country away for the “global good”.
    I really feel for the citizens of Florida and this hospital and I hope they vote their “representative” Marco Rubio out of office. He obviously likes foreigners who break the laws of America – over American citizens who are paying the costs by the sweat equity of their labor and life.

    I wonder how much of RMH’s “charity” (according to a VP 8% of it’s operating expense) is given to “people who cannot pay or will not pay.”? How many of them are illegal aliens? Is this why RMH charges 50$ for two asprin?

  43. Frank J Witt says:

    Now, Now Draegn88, you know how the people of this blog will
    react when faced with the facts that go against their well intentioned stance on criminal immigrants.

    Someone might be looking to punch your nose next.

  44. JGFitzgerald says:

    HH, maybe you didn’t have time to read the links you cite, but one of them only references hospital closings in an anonymous comment. The other cites a NYT article and specifically says the NYT doesn’t mention undocumented aliens. Perhaps you meant to send some other links?

  45. Brooke says:

    DinTN – my logic is simple. I went ahead and checked your profile on that website to verify my hunch, and yes, you are from TN, not the VA or the Shenandoah Valley, were not in any way involved in this debate on this site.

    And then you show up out of the blue to defend your honor when someone references something you said on an entire different, unrelated blog. It’s almost like you sit around googling your own words, or “illegal immigration” or “alipac” or something.

    That’s why I was wondering how you even knew someone (Draegn88, not me) on THIS news site, which is devoted to a very specific geographic area, quoted you.

    I think it’s a fair question.

  46. Brooke says:

    So what? You can cut and paste links to your favorite xenophobic anti-immigrant sites. Good for you. Why don’t you go find one of your hate blogs to go pontificate on, or perhaps a Tennessee news blog, and leave our news blog be. We already have a couple of people like you here, and they’re more than enough, thanks.

  47. finnegan says:

    Agreed, Brooke.

    I’m thinking of adding a new amendment to the comment rules: if you have no connection to this community, butt out.

    DinTN, Draegn88 has you covered. That’s a nice way of saying “butt out of our local conversation.”

  48. Draegn88 says:

    Hey Joe,

    I think it’s fair to say that you are more than capable of finding things out for yourself. But, I’ll humor you.

    This last one imo is neutral.

    Frank, that’s really funny. But, I’m not overly concerned with those people who stay in their insulated sheltered realms of comfort. For, one day everything they try to avoid will be in their face and they will say, “Draegn is right, I wish I had listened.”

  49. Brooke says:

    Insulated sheltered realms of comfort? What are you talking about? We’re not the ones constantly talking like we’d like keep the Valley as lily white as possible. ;-) Seems to me you guys are the ones trying to stay in your insulated sheltered realms of comfort and are extremely, EXTREMELY threatened and freaked out by anything that doesn’t mesh up with that.

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