Houston City Council member Toni Lawrence complained that non residents should not be treated at Houston hospitals should they turn up with the flu. Imagine a 2 year old showing up at an emergency room, having severe flu symptoms and the staff telling the parents, take him somewhere else, he is not from Houston. That is nuts.
By MIKE TOLSON HOUSTON CHRONICLEApril 30, 2009, 10:04PMHouston City Council member Toni Lawrence on Thursday called on the mayor and county judge to exert control over local hospitals accepting patients from outside the area who are seeking treatment for possible swine flu.Expanding on comments she made a day earlier in the wake of the nation’s first swine flu-related death, Lawrence said she was not picking on people from Mexico when she said officials should place a priority on the needs of the local community and economy.When news broke Wednesday that a toddler from Mexico who had died at Texas Children’s Hospital suffered from swine flu, Lawrence expressed indignation that elected officials had not been notified of the child’s presence in Houston. She said Thursday it would not matter to her had the patient been from Oklahoma or Canada: Local officials should be informed and have some say about the hospitals’ procedure for accepting them.“I want to hear from the mayor and county judge what the plan is for Houston,” Lawrence said Thursday. “… We need to have a plan in place for people coming in. Just to let somebody who controls a hospital entrance individually make those decisions I think is wrong.”White, Emmett dismiss itHouston Mayor Bill White and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett had a simple response to Lawrence: Forget it.“The last thing we need is politicians deciding medical policy for hospitals and doctors,” Emmett said. “I don’t think we ought to be in the business of telling hospitals who to admit and how to admit and treat them.”Added White: “Elected officials at all levels of government should permit the medical community and epidemiologists to make decisions and provide treatment in a manner they are trained to do. I don’t envision a day when those brought via medical transport are being cleared by political officials.”As for Texas Children’s Hospital, its executives want no part of a political dust-up. The hospital will continue to respond to children in need, they say, in a way that minimizes risk of infection.“We’re focusing on medical assessment and medical need, on children who can’t get the medical treatment they need wherever they are,” said Ann Stern, the hospital’s executive vice president. “We’re pretty passionate about our mission and our commitment to children. We are hoping that mission would be respected.”At Wednesday’s council meeting, Lawrence pointed out that the child was not a U.S. citizen.“We have jeopardized the hospital district and possibly conventions,” she said during the meeting. “I know tour boats are not leaving Galveston now because they are not going to Mexico. I’m very concerned council wasn’t told about this. We need to be aware of this and continue to do things for Houston and not for anybody else.”Some take offenseHer statements rubbed some the wrong way.“Those comments are misplaced and inappropriate when our focus should be on treating people and stopping the spread of this illness,” said Carol Alvarado, a former council colleague and now a state representative. “We are known all over the world for providing treatment. This issue has never been raised in the history of the Texas Medical Center.”Immigration advocates are concerned that the spread of swine flu is giving rise to immigrant bashing, vilification of Mexico and repeated calls to close the border.The National Council of La Raza, a Latino advocacy group, earlier this week denounced those who blame immigrants for swine flu.“It’s not surprising that some are implying that all immigrants are a threat to our health,” the group’s president, Janet Murguia, said in a prepared statement. “That’s standard fare on the hate group circuit.”firstname.lastname@example.org - link