The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
Recently, an article appeared in the New York Times that detailed the conditions immigrants experienced when they were brought by law enforcement agencies to hospitals in Arizona, Texas and other border states for emergency care.
The article explored a number of very serious and important questions, such as whether it is appropriate for Border Patrol agents to be present in patient rooms and whether patients should be in restraints while care is administered. The article also highlighted the difficulties providers face when they have to balance the needs of patients — who are often in distress — and the requirements of law enforcement.
These difficulties are a reality of everyone working in health care. We wish to acknowledge all of our team members who, when faced with these challenging circumstances, manage them with professionalism, compassion and empathy each and every day.
Situations like the ones highlighted by the Times play out countless times every day in hundreds of hospitals across the Southwest and we at Banner-University Medicine believe that it is important for there to be a public dialogue on this issue. This is a challenge that is much bigger than just our organization, and we appreciate the attention the New York Times has brought to it.
But, for all of the questions surrounding this issue, here is what we at Banner-University Medicine are certain of: It is our fundamental value as a nonprofit organization and responsibility as a health-care provider for this community to treat every person in need of medical care with the utmost compassion, respect and privacy, regardless of where they were born or how they arrive at our doors.
For this reason, we provide our staff with guidelines for when a patient arrives at our hospitals in the custody of law enforcement agents. We do this to assure a balance of patient rights and our obligations to the law. For example, we require our team members to take every reasonable measure to ensure patient privacy, unless the officer determines it is not safe to leave the vicinity during the course of medical care or discussion.
Our policy also states that physicians are authorized to order the removal of restraints if they impede our ability to administer care. Given the nature of emergency care, there are still many times that providers need to work with the law enforcement officers to make decisions together regarding care delivery in a safe environment.
We appreciate the feedback we have heard from our providers and team members and are providing additional guidance for these complex situations. We also met with Border Patrol officials to express our concerns. They were receptive and are collaborating with us to identify solutions that enhance patient privacy while ensuring a safe environment.
Sadly, for all parties involved — the patients most of all — these challenges are unlikely to go away any time soon. In the meantime, we will continue to monitor the situation, consult with our team members, stay in close contact with law enforcement and local officials and listen to the community we serve.
It is our goal to provide the highest quality and most compassionate care, respect the privacy and dignity of all patients and ensure a safe environment for everyone while adhering to the law. We will never stop working to achieve it.