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Why are so many victims of Juarez drug violence treated at Thomason?

Posted: July 21, 2008 11:04 AM

by ABC-7 Reporter Veronique Masterson

County Commissioners and the Hospital District's Board of Managers want to know why so many victims are crossing the border to receive treatment at Thomason Hospital. County Commissioner, Precint 2, Veronica Escobar asks, "Who else is being allowed in that may be posing a significant risk to the neighborhood, school and institutions in that particular area?"

Officials plan to discuss security and cost issues Thomason Hospital has had to endure as a result of treating eleven victims of the Juarez drug violence since the beginning of the year. Three were Mexican police officials.

Last weekend, Thomason CEO and President Jim Valenti urged officials to take action. "What we need is assistance from our community, assistance from our state and assistance from our federal government to do things that are necessary to stabilize Mexico, stabilize Juarez," he said.

Thomason is the only level one trauma center within 280 miles. They are mandated by federal law to provide care in an emergency, no matter the nationality of the patient. In a newsletter, Valenti explains Thomason Hospital is in a unique situation, saying, "Despite drug-related violence in other Mexican border cities, victims of that violence are not entering the U.S. for treatment at American healthcare facilities."

According to the American College of Surgeons, there are only four other certified Level One Trauma Centers close to a major Mexican city. San Diego, which is about 15 miles away from Tijuana. Phoenix, about 160 miles from Nogales and San Antonio, approximately 146 miles from Nuevo Laredo. El Paso appears to be the only city literally bordering a major Mexican city.

Congressman Silvestre Reyes said in a statement to ABC-7, federal law enforcement offered assistance in June. He goes on to say, "I have had no further requests from the County or the hospital on this matter."

Commissioner Escobar contends, "It puts the entire area at risk, puts our sheriff's department at risk."

Congressman Reyes says all of the patients have either been U.S. citizens or had the appropriate legal documentation to enter the country.

That special meeting will be at 9:00 a.m. Thursday at the El Paso County Courthouse.

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