A federal court ruled yesterday a Florida hospital that provided over $2 million in care to an injured illegal alien was wrong to send him back to Guatemala, which means the man could possibly travel back to the U.S. for additional medical treatment.
Yesterday’s action by the 4th District Court of Appeals reverses a June court order by Circuit Judge John E. Fennelly that authorized Martin Memorial Medical Center in Stuart, Fla., to charter a jet to fly brain-damaged Luis Alberto Jimenez to a hospital in his home country of Guatemala.
According to a report in the Stuart News, the appeals court unanimously found Fennelly had no authority to authorize Jimenez’s return to Guatemala. It also concluded hospital officials failed to present “competent substantial evidence” to support Jimenez’s discharge.
Now, Jimenez’s family is hoping he can be returned to the U.S. for further treatment and are considering suing the small hospital.
Jimenez suffered brain injuries in a 2000 car wreck and spent two years at Martin Memorial, racking up more than $2 million in unpaid medical bills.
Word of yesterday’s ruling was relayed to Jimenez in Guatemala by his court-appointed guardian and cousin by marriage, Montejo Gaspar Montejo.
Attorney Michael Banks told the paper the family will “hopefully try and bring Luis Jimenez back so he can get the proper treatment that he needs.”
According to the report, Jimenez spent less than two weeks at the Guatemalan hospital before he was discharged because he couldn’t pay his bill. The 32-year-old now stays at his mother’s home in Guatemala.
Martin Memorial spokesman Miguel Coty said the hospital was weighing its options.
“We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision and we will be looking to review this and analyze it to determine our next step,” he is quoted as saying.
Gregory Schell of the Migrant Farmworkers Justice Project hailed the ruling.
“The court agreed with us that this was totally improper: That the proof offered by the hospital was unreliable and … was no basis for them concluding that he’d be better off in Guatemala,” Schell told the Stuart paper.
“The so-called discharge plan they had didn’t comply with federal Medicare regulations, and that the court had no authority to essentially make itself Border Patrol – which is what it did.”
Schell lamented the fact Guatemala was not providing “free” health care to Jimenez like he received in the U.S.
“He’s not getting medicine … his condition is deteriorating,” Schell said. “There is medicine available, but they don’t have any money to buy it. There is no free health care in Guatemala.”
The activist predicts if the family sues the hospital for transporting Jimenez back to Guatemala, damages would “outstrip anything that they saved by sending this guy home.”
Schell’s organization is currently considering how Jimenez, who has the mental capacity of a child, might be returned to the United States.
The Federation for American Immigration Reform strongly disagreed with the ruling.
“It makes no sense to be providing beyond-emergency medical care to people who do not belong in the country after the point at which their medical condition is stabilized,” Jack Martin, special projects director for FAIR, told WorldNetDaily.
“It doesn’t make any sense to expect the American taxpayer to continue to pick up the tab for treatment for someone who doesn’t belong in the country. That should be the responsibility of the person’s own government, rather than ours.”
Martin said his organization is opposed to any effort to bring Jimenez back to the U.S., noting, “He didn’t belong in the country in the first place.”