STATE — A Perth Amboy resident who fell unconscious after having a stroke in a New Brunswick hospital woke up from his coma in Poland, after living in America for 30 years.
Wladyslaw Haniszewsk was was deported after the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) learned he had no medical insurance and had been living in the US illegally.
The 69-year-old patient suffers from a blood disease and lived for many years in Perth Amboy, but he lost his apartment and was living in a local shelter after becoming unemployed, according to his friend.
“This is a very good man who I saw on a daily basis for some 12 years,” said Jerzy Jedra, who earlier this month brought Haniszewski to the hospital, where he suffered a stroke.
Haniszewski is now in a hospital in the Polish town of Boleslawiec while angry diplomats are demanding answers.
Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka, the Polish Consul General in New York, asserted that RWJUH broke the law by failing to inform the unconscious patient or appoint a guardian before he was deported.
“We submitted a proposal to the hospital in New Brunswick to appoint a guardian, because the patient, due to the consequences of a stroke, was unable to make a decision alone, and his two daughters did not want to have anything to do with it,” said Junczyk-Ziomecka. “The hospital did not react to our request, but suddenly we learned that the patient is already in Poland.”
“The individual was informed regarding his discharge plan and care,” RWJUH spokesman Peter Haigney told the New York Daily News. “As the hospital’s understanding of the facts differs from the published reports, we are conducting a thorough review of the procedures and communications surrounding this gentleman’s care.”
The Center for Social Justice at Seton Hall University School of Law documented at more than 800 immigrants who were involuntarily removed from hospitals from at least 15 states and sent back to their native countries for medical reasons since 2006.
That estimate is based on information from news reporters, humanitarian groups, hospitals and immigration advocates with knowledge about specific cases but the actual number is believed to be significantly higher because many incidents almost certainly go unreported.
Some patients who were sent home subsequently died in hospitals that weren’t equipped to meet their needs. Others suffered lingering medical problems because they never received adequate rehabilitation, the report said.
“It’s an incredibly disturbing case,” Lori Nessel, director of the Center for Social Justice told the New York Daily News. “This kind of action seems clearly illegal and also not ethical, but it’s hard to bring a legal action.”
Hospitals are legally bound to give emergency care to all, but can effectively deport stabilised ‘undocumented patients’ through a process called “medical repatriation.” In order to do so they must get consent either from the patient, family or a court guardian.
He said the hospital only repatriates patients if they are satisfied a health care provider in the patient’s home country will provide treatment.
US Immigration and Customs plays no role in medical repatriations, which are paid for by hospitals themselves as way of ridding themselves patients that need costly, long term care.
In one grim example the Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital last year obtained legal permission to deport Chicago resident Barbara Latasiewicz to Poland after she suffered a stroke in 2009 that left paralysed.
The cleaner had originally come to the US in 1990 but stayed on after her original visa expired. She became paralysed as a result of the stroke and required 24-hour care.
The hospital asked around 30 other US medical facilities to take her in, but their request was denied each time.
Despite her lack of medical insurance, the hospital continued to treat her for two years at a cost of $1 million.
Eventually the hospital applied to the courts to force her to return to Poland, a country she had not seen for 22 years, leaving her son and grandchildren in the US.
“It’s hard to document how often it happens because it happens in the shadows,” said Shena Elrington, director of the Health Justice Program told the Daily News. “We have been doing some outreach to consulates and are hearing that it happens with increasing frequency.”
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