Arizona hospital out more than $26M after providing medical care to migrant patients

Mar 2, 2023, 4:35 AM | Updated: 10:01 am

PHOENIX —  The only hospital within 180 miles of the Yuma area felt a surge of its own as migrants who crossed the southern border have racked up more than $26 million in medical bills over a year.

Robert Trenschel, president and CEO of the Yuma Regional Medical Center, said it’s critical his hospital finds a payer source for the migrants needing medical care.

Trenschel explained the migrants who come into the hospital arrive with various issues from bruises to bowel obstructions, but the largest group is maternity patients.

“We’ve had a significant number of maternity patients cross the border, but when the peak was happening, we would get up to five a day in our maternity unit. We only have a seven-bed area to do triage and see those individuals,” Trenschel said.

Trenschel added that many of the women coming into the hospital have not received any prenatal care, leading to most of the babies being born very ill.

“You never want to separate mom and baby, so we would either have mom stay extra days in the hospital or we would have them go to a hotel in the area and pay for transportation back and forth,” Tresnchel said, adding the hospital also pays for the hotel.

The increase of migrants at the hospital has also led to many non-urgent procedures being postponed.

“Any planned inductions or any planned elective procedures wind up getting put on hold while you’re dealing with more acute patients, which were, in this case, the migrants coming through the doors,” said Trenschel.

The surge of patients has also become taxing on hospital employees because the migrant patients require three times the resources, according to Trenschel.

“It takes us 10 hours about to resolve a case and give a patient, a resident, a discharge. It took us up to 30 hours of case management time to resolve a migrant case and get them a safe discharge,” said Trenschel.

Trenschel stresses the hospital takes pride in caring for everyone who walks through its door but explains it has become an unstainable business model. He adds the concern of the possible end of Title 42 continues to loom over him and hospital staff.

“The other concern is if Title 42 goes away and we get another migrant surge like we’ve had in the past … I don’t know what to think at that point,” Trenschel said.

Trenschel said he’s met with both Arizona U.S. senators and former Gov. Doug Ducey, and has had extensive conversations with Medicaid about the rising medical bills.

“Everybody is sympathetic and lends a listening ear, but nobody really has a solution,” Trenschel said.

At a press conference, Gov. Katie Hobbs told reporters she spoke with local leaders regarding migrant care at the Yuma medical center during her Monday trip to the border.

“Certainly, something we’re advocating for these federal dollars to help support with where they can,” Hobbs said.

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Arizona hospital out more than $26M after providing medical care to migrant patients