Chil­dren leave cus­tody in poor health

The Tribune (SLO) (Sunday) - - News - BY GUS­TAVO SO­LIS

Many mi­grants re­leased from fed­eral cus­tody are in poor health and have not had ac­cess to med­i­cal care, ac­cord­ing to doc­tors treat­ing them in San Diego’s emer­gency shel­ter.

“We can tell that they have not nec­es­sar­ily had care any­where along the road,” said Maria Car­riedo-Ceniceros, chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer for San Ysidro Health Cen­ter.

Most of the mi­grants ar­rive to the emer­gency shel­ter with weak­ened im­mune sys­tems. They suf­fer mostly from com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases like the flu, cold, and res­pi­ra­tory in­fec­tions – ill­nesses as­so­ci­ated with liv­ing in close con­fine­ment for long pe­ri­ods of time.

Ad­di­tion­ally, doc­tors have treated preg­nant women who have not been given pre­na­tal vi­ta­mins, chil­dren with cav­i­ties, adults with tooth in­fec­tions and sev­eral cases of rashes, sca­bies, and fun­gus.

Although some young chil­dren with high fevers have been taken to local hos­pi­tals, none of the mi­grants treated by San Ysidro Health Cen­ter providers have had to be hos­pi­tal­ized for ex­tended pe­ri­ods of time.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s treat­ment of mi­grant chil­dren at­tracted na­tional at­ten­tion in De­cem­ber, af­ter two Gu­atemalan mi­nors died while in fed­eral cus­tody. An 8-year-old boy was had pre­vi­ously been di­ag­nosed with a cold and fever died on Christ­mas Day.

Even be­fore the chil­dren’s death, doc­tors in San Diego were aware of the po­ten­tially fa­tal dis­eases some of the mi­grants have.

“It’s al­ways on my mind,” said Car­riedoCeniceros. “peo­ple for­get that the com­mon flu can be se­ri­ous. Peo­ple die from it.”

In re­sponse to the boy’s death, U.S. Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion or­dered med­i­cal checks on ev­ery child in its cus­tody.

How­ever, local doc­tors have not no­ticed that mi­grants leav­ing fed­eral cus­tody are in any bet­ter con­di­tion.

“It’s prob­a­bly too early to tell,” Car­riedo-Ceniceros said. “I haven’t heard of any dif­fer­ence yet.”

The mi­grants in San Diego’s emer­gency shel­ter usu­ally stay less than 48 hours. If they are given per­mis­sion to live with rel­a­tives in the United States, they are re­leased from fed­eral cus­tody un­til their im­mi­gra­tion cases are re­solved. The mi­grants stay in the San Diego’s emer­gency shel­ter un­til they can make travel ar­range­ments to be with their fam­i­lies, most of which live east of the Mis­sis­sippi, ad­vo­cates said.

This dy­namic pre­sents health­care providers with unique chal­lenges. Specif­i­cally, doc­tors won’t al­ways have the op­por­tu­nity to do a fol­low up and they rarely know a pa­tient’s med­i­cal his­tory.

Doc­tors and nurses have to di­ag­nose and im­me­di­ately treat ail­ments while mak­ing sure the pa­tients are safe enough to travel.

In one re­cent case, doc­tors strug­gled to find Amox­i­cillin for a boy with an ear in­fec­tion who was go­ing to be on a five-day bus ride to New Or­leans the next day.

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