The New York Times recently published an article and photos about a hospital in Georgia caught in the middle of both the healthcare and immigration debates. Grady Memorial Hospital, the largest hospital in the state, is debating whether or not to close its outpatient dialysis clinic, which lost the hospital $2 million last year. The clinic has long offered free dialysis to its patients, two-thirds of whom are illegal immigrants who are ineligible for programs like Medicare and Medicaid. The immigrantsâ€™ lawyers are currently fighting for the clinic to remain open until they are at least able to find alternate healthcare options.
Healthcare and immigration are both hot-button issues, and when the two are combined tempers fly. Rep. Joe Wilsonâ€™s recent outburst during President Obamaâ€™s healthcare speech is a perfect example. The Grady Memorial debate is more complicated than it seems on the surface. Though the hospital has contributed financially for some immigrants to return to their home countries, many patients simply have no feasible healthcare options available back home. It may be in the financial interest of the hospital to close the clinic, but what about its low-income patients? All too often the livelihood of the people affected is pushed aside, and they become theoretical faces who those involved in the decision-making process will likely never see.
The Times article gives voice and a face to immigrants who would be affected by the hospital closing, which sets this article apart from other stories on healthcare. Itâ€™s easy to advocate the closing of Grady Memorial when the patient is nothing more than a nameless statistic. But seeing their pictures and reading what they have to say about the clinic provides a new perspective on the debate. Some of the quotes are truly heart wrenching, like a 69-year-old Ethiopian immigrant who said that if the clinic closed, â€œhe would begin â€˜counting the days until I die.â€™â€ Everyone deserves to be healthy, regardless of their insurance or citizenship. Itâ€™s as if some people forget that immigrants are humans too, and their health is just as valuable as that of a citizen.