July 24, 2008

Officials discuss treatment of drug violence victims at Thomason

Posted: July 24, 2008 07:55 PM CDT

by ABC-7 Reporter Darren Hunt

EL PASO, Texas -- A special two-hour meeting was held Thursday to discuss the victims of the drug violence in Juarez and their treatment at El Paso's Thomason Hospital.

The meeting brought some interesting details to light.

Of the 22 patients in question that were transported to Thomason, the majority were U.S. citizens and the rest had the proper documentation to be in the country.

Also, the bill for taxpayers, to this point, is already in excess of a million dollars.

"It's unique to our region," Thomason CEO Jim Valenti said. "And why is that unique? That's something we need to drill down and discuss with the federal officials."

Valenti wants answers to questions like, why are Mexican patients being dumped on his hospital's doorstep? And who's going to pay for the treatment and security?

"Are the U.S. agencies here in our sector discharging this responsibility in the appropriate fashion?" Valenti asked.

Congressman Silvestre Reyes has called a special Homeland Security Meeting in Washington, D.C., next week to discuss this situation. Valenti and El Paso County Judge Anthony Cobos have been invited.

"We are going to be sitting down with U.S. agencies and with our federal officials," Valenti said.

Cobos added, "We're looking at medical reimbursement and we're looking at security reimbursement. It's unknown where those reimbursements will come from."

Some, like County Commissioner Luis Sarinana, have opinions about where it should come from.

"If these people want to bring these patients to El Paso, then they need to be responsible in reimbursing the citizens of El Paso," Sarinana said.

Others, like County Commissioner Dan Haggerty, say this kind of problem is something El Pasoans have to accept, living on the border.

"We are the gateway to sex, drugs and rock and roll," Haggerty said. "What can you say, except that after dark there is another El Paso none of us knows about."

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