After suffering a devastating stroke, Wladyslaw Haniszewski, who lived in the United States for roughly three decades as an uninsured and undocumented immigrant, was sent back to Poland by a New Jersey hospital.
Angry diplomats, including Consul General Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka, are seeking answers from the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick as to why the 69-year-old Haniszewski is now in a hospital in Boleslawiec, Poland. She was among those trying to help Haniszewski when the hospital reportedly sent him overseas without telling them.
“Imagine being carted around like a sack of potatoes," Junczyk-Ziomecka told the New York Daily News.
American hospitals are bound by law to give emergency care, but do have the right to deport stabilized undocumented patients through what’s called “medical repatriation.” However, the hospitals must get consent from the patient, family or a court guardian first and consular officials state this did not happen.
A spokesman for the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital noted that the hospital did follow proper procedures and said it only repatriates patients if they are satisfied a health care provider in the patient’s home country will give the needed care.
“The individual was informed regarding his discharge plan and care," Peter Haigney said. "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 gentlemen’s care.”
According to a study by the Center for Social Justice at Seton Hall University School of Law and the Health Justice Program at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, hospitals in the United States have sent or tried to send more than 800 immigrants back home in the past seven years.
Repatriations might become more common next year when the federal government begins to reduce payments to hospitals that care for a disproportionate number of uninsured patients.