US State Department Reviewing Grady Dialysis Crisis (UPDATE 1)

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(APN) ATLANTA — The US Ambassador to the Organization of American States, Carmen Lomellin, is reviewing the plight of 31 undocumented immigrants in Atlanta who are in danger of being cut off from dialysis care by Grady Hospital, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.

Lomellin–President Obama’s nominee who was recently confirmed by the US Senate–is reviewing the situation in response to a request for precautionary measures by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), part of the OAS.

As previously reported by APN, Grady Advocates for Responsible Care (GARC), an activist group, with the help of attorney Lindsay Jones, requested the assistance of the IACHR.

The request for precautionary measures was written by Mario Williams, attorney at Oinonen Law Group; Williams has also been communicating directly with the IACHR, APN has learned.

The IACHR responded on January 29, 2010, granting the precautionary measures, according to a copy a letter from IACHR to the advocacy group representing the 31 patients.

“On behalf of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), I am pleased to address you with respect to your request for precautionary measures in favor of 31 undocumented immigrants residing in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States,” Santiago Canton, Executive Secretary of the IACHR, wrote.

“I also wish to inform you that in a note of today’s date, the Commission addressed the Government of the United States pursuant to Article 25 of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure in order to request the adoption of urgent measures in favor of the above-mentioned persons,” Canton wrote.

“Specifically, the Commission requested the Government of the United States: 1. Instruct the competent authorities to take the urgent measures necessary to ensure that the beneficiaries have access to the medical treatment that may be required for their conditions; 2. Adopt these measures in consultation with the beneficiaries,” Canton wrote.

“In its communication to the United States, the Commission also requested that the State provide the Commission with information concerning compliance with these measures within 10 days of receipt of the communication, and thereafter on a periodic basis. In view of the observations of the parties on compliance, the Commission will decide whether to extend or lift the measures,” Canton wrote.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton originally received the letter from the IACHR.

“This request for precautionary measures from the… IACHR… was addressed to Secretary of State Clinton. The U.S. Mission to the OAS plans to send a response to the IACHR shortly,” a statement prepared for APN and sent by Charles Luoma-Overstreet, a spokesperson for the State Department’s Western Hemisphere Bureau, said.

“The United States is one of the hemisphere’s strongest supporters of the IACHR, and has high respect for the role it performs throughout the hemisphere in safeguarding human rights and fundamental freedoms – including in the United States,” the statement said.

“In light of the Commission’s important work promoting human rights throughout the hemisphere, we are pleased to support and participate in its ongoing activities,” the statement said.

“We regularly respond to inquiries from the IACHR and take seriously its requests for the granting of precautionary measures, including in this instance,” the statement said.

“We note, however, that such requests are exactly that: requests, not binding orders. The IACHR does not have authority to issue orders that bind the U.S. government. Moreover, the IACHR’s jurisdiction and authority are generally limited in scope to the U.S. government. The IACHR request that you describe would apply to a private party, not a U.S. government entity,” the statement said.

“Despite these factors, the State Department is looking into the relevant facts, and will respond appropriately and respectfully to the IACHR’s request,” the statement said.

It is not immediately clear why the Department referred to Grady Hospital as a private party, although it is possible they were referring to the fact that it had been recently privatized.

Dorothy Leone-Glasser of GARC said it did not appear that Grady had changed any of its practices in light of the granting of precautionary measures.

“They haven’t even addressed it,” Leone-Glasser told APN.

“Grady is still doing what it always does: threatening the patients. A select group have received a certified letter that says you must make an appointment to come in and see social services by February 12,” Leone-Glasser said.

“It’s the social worker from hell- she absolutely is very mean to the patients,” she said.

“She sits down and gives them three or four options. If they don’t take any of the options, they say you will not receive any care after 30 days,” she said.

“I only know 4 patients out of 31 who’ve gotten this,” she said.

As previously reported by APN, Grady has given patients numerous deadlines before which have been extended, including most recently a February 03, 2010, deadline which has come and gone.

According to a copy of the most recent letter obtained by APN, Grady instructs the patients that they will only continue to receive care if they are working on finding alternative arrangements.

The problem is: no alternative arrangements are available.

“They’re going to say we gave this option and that option; they’re passing out options like M&Ms. But they’re not viable options, they’re not options that are going to sustain their lives. What could they possibly be offering them except here’s a ticket, please go away?” Leone-Glasser said.

“They’re giving them the same three options it’s always been: go back to your home country, go to another state, or use the emergency room,” Leone-Glasser said.

As previously reported by APN, advocates say that at least three of Grady’s former dialysis patients have died in Mexico after taking Grady’s first option. These patients only received a few weeks of MexCare and then were dropped from the roles, Leone-Glasser said.

In addition, a fourth former Grady patient died after flying in critical condition down to Florida only to learn that they could not qualify for Medicaid in another state without meeting its residency requirements, Leone-Glasser said.

GARC and the attorney, Mr. Jones, have provided patients with a letter to give to Grady and advised them not to sign anything.

“It’s a short paragraph. It just states that the patient will take the document from Grady and will bring it to the attorney for consultation, but they’re not going to sign anything in front of Grady,” Leone-Glasser said.

Leone-Glasser believes Grady’s tactic is: “Let’s scare them and get them to sign something that says we gave them options and they denied us.”

“I don’t know where they think they’re gonna be looking for care. Where are they going to get this care that Grady wants them to be working on? We’ll take care of them if they’re working on a long-term solution? Okay buddy, you are the long-term solution!”

“My patients are not English-speaking people. They know if they say something to them in a certain way or a certain inflection, they’re going to get a response to scare them,” Leone-Glasser said.

Leone-Glasser also expressed concern with the IACHR’s statement that it would ask the US government to instruct the “competent authorities” to ensure the patients were receiving care.

“There’s a conundrum with competent authorities. They may not be able to find any,” she joked in all seriousness.

“They keep moving the deadline, and I see that as a tactic to scare the patients. They’re like, no no no, it’s March we’re gonna cut off your life support. It causes great anxiety in these patients. Can you imagine going to bed every night not knowing whether you’re going to get dialysis because Grady’s like no we’ve decided you’re only gonna get thirty more days?”

“My patients tell me they can’t sleep at night.”

(END/2010)

CLARIFICATION: This version adds a statement clarifying that the request for precautionary measures was originally written by Mario Williams, although GARC and Jones have been representing the patients in other matters.

About the author:

Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for The Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

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Our syndication policy was updated June 2007. For more information on how to syndicate Atlanta Progressive News content, please visit: http://www.atlantaprogressivenews.com/extras/syndicate.html

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