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UMC patient finally ID’d, goes home

Citizen Staff Writer



An illegal immigrant who spent months at University Medical Center after he was injured in a truck rollover in April has been identified and sent to his family in Guatemala, the hospital said.

Because of a brain injury suffered in the crash, the man, whom the hospital called Adobe, was unable to communicate his name and country.

UMC spokeswoman Katie Riley said Vazquez Escalante, 34, was positively identified by the Guatemala Consulate in Phoenix and transported to his homeland and family Friday.

Escalante was one of about 50 to 60 illegal immigrants in a pickup truck that rolled near Arizona City on April 27.

Kevin Burns, UMC’s chief financial officer, estimated the cost of Escalante’s stay at about $450,000. Burns estimated that UMC will receive about $7,000 for his care under Section 1011, a federal reimbursement program that helps hospitals with emergency care costs related to taking care of foreign nationals. The program will stop at the end of September.

“Because this patient had no insurance, he qualified for UMC’s Uninsured and Underinsured Discount Program,” Burns said in an e-mail. “Under UMC’s program for the under and uninsured, patients pay no more than the rate UMC would receive from Medicare.”

Burns said Escalante may apply for charity care and that UMC will attempt to get some payment from his family, although Burns said the hospital generally recovers less than 5 percent of the cost of caring for foreign nationals.

“UMC will undoubtedly have to write off the vast majority of this bill,” Burns said.

UMC, as with all U.S. hospitals, is required under a federal mandate to care for all emergency patients regardless of their legal status.

Hospital officials originally believed Escalante was from Mexico. The identification he carried, though, did not belong to him and his family and name were a mystery. UMC expanded its search for his family to Guatemala and El Salvador, but without luck.

Escalante was finally identified through a fingerprint submitted to the U.S. Border Patrol.

Riley said the hospital does not usually involve the Border Patrol when dealing with foreign nationals for fear that people will choose not to seek help in an emergency.

But when the hospital was unable to identify Escalante after almost four months, it sought Border Patrol help, she said.

Once the Border Patrol provided a name, the consulate was able to locate Escalante’s family in Chiquimula, near the Guatemala and Honduras border.

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