Advocates of healthcare for undocumented immigrants may be surprised at the identity of their latest ally.
Texas Attorney General John Cornyn, whose controversial legal opinion last year barred the use of public funds to provide nonemergency care to undocumented immigrants, now says he would support a federal law to allow such care.
Running as the GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate, Cornyn last month endorsed legislation introduced by Democratic U.S. Rep. Gene Green of Houston. Speaking at a Houston community health center, Cornyn said the current law is inhumane and not cost-effective.
Campaign spokesman David Beckwith says Cornyn was only doing his job last year by offering a legal interpretation of the federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, which Cornyn said bars local governments from providing free or discounted preventive care to undocumented immigrants without specific state approval. Cornyn's opinion prompted the Harris County district attorney to launch a criminal investigation of the county's public hospital officials-a probe that eventually was dropped (Dec. 17, 2001, p. 14).
Democratic opponent Ron Kirk, who also supports immigrant healthcare reform, accuses Cornyn of a flip-flop. Yet John Guest, president and CEO of the Harris County Hospital District, who was a subject of the criminal probe, applauded Cornyn for taking a stand on a divisive policy issue.
Guest says he was among several local healthcare leaders who met with Cornyn a few months ago to discuss policy concerns. "As the attorney general with an obligation to make interpretations of the law, he was put in a role that politically he didn't feel comfortable in," Guest says.
Talk about basic medical needs
It's one of the universal symbols of medical care, the simple, utilitarian stethoscope, draped over the shoulder of a doctor or nurse. Yet this basic medical tool remains scarce, even nonexistent in many poverty-stricken parts of the world.
To help fill that void, the Chicago-based American Medical Association has embarked on a campaign to provide about 100,000 stethoscopes to needy communities around the world, soliciting physicians across the nation to either donate any spare stethoscopes or order a new one through the AMA for as little as $15. The program was officially launched in June at the AMA's annual meeting in Chicago. So far, 2,000 have been donated, officials say.
"The stethoscope is the link, figuratively and literally, between physicians and patients," says Audiey Kao, M.D., vice president of ethics standards at the AMA. "I think many doctors take basic medical instruments like a stethoscope for granted, never imagining there are healthcare professionals around the world who don't have access to them."
A weighty issue
Memorial Hospital-Ormond Beach (Fla.) may want to rethink its cardiac-care routine. A 326-pound patient scheduled for an outpatient catheterization procedure at the 205-bed hospital was turned away after officials said he was too heavy for the operating table.
"I'm frustrated," the patient, 52-year-old Preston Bergin, told the Associated Press. "It's pretty bad when a private hospital can't afford a bed." He says he's been having chest pains and thinks he has angina. The next nearest hospital, Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Fla., wasn't an option for him because his insurance isn't accepted in full there and he would have to pay more out of pocket. Memorial Hospital-Ormond Beach officials say they turned him away for his own good. "The table we have is rated at 300 pounds," hospital spokeswoman Desiree Paradis-Warner told the AP. "For the patient's safety, the decision was made not to do the procedure."
While 326 pounds is fairly hefty, it is far from abnormal. Most NFL linemen check in at that weight and then some. And the last time we checked, many people who are overweight also may need cardiac care.
Paradis-Warner says Memorial is planning to eventually retrofit the table in their catheterization lab or buy a new one to safely treat larger patients. Meanwhile, Bergin and his wife are scrambling to find a hospital that will treat him.
"I'm afraid I might have to leave the state of Florida to find out what's wrong with the tightness in my chest," he says.
"I wanted to jump on the other end of the phone when they said there was going to be no Q&A. I was astounded. I think they could have given investors the opportunity to ask questions. It was more or less the straw that broke the camel's back as far as investor confidence."
-Darren Lehrich, an analyst with SunTrust Robinson Humphrey Capital Markets, as quoted in the Birmingham (Ala.) Business Journal. He was reacting to the decision by Richard Scrushy, chairman and CEO of HealthSouth Corp., not to allow questions in a conference call with investors after the announcement of a poor earnings outlook and Scrushy's decision to step down as CEO.