American citizens have reportedly been turned away from at least one hospital in Northern Virginia so newly arrived refugees from Afghanistan could be treated instead, according to officials.
“A hospital near the Dulles Expo Center that federal officials designated as a go-to spot for medical treatment began running out of available beds, forcing the hospital to turn away non-Afghan patients who weren’t in need of critical care,” The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
The paper went on to report that the “mass arrival” of refugees from the war-torn country included “many” who were “in need of medical care,” which “wreaked havoc on Northern Virginia’s hospital system.” The influx resulted in “a regional emergency response group” taking charge of the situation “after one hospital became overwhelmed with patients and federal officials lost track of where some Afghans were hospitalized,” the Post reported, citing various officials.
Officials in Northern Virginia have requested that the Biden administration foot the bill for ever-increasing costs associated with monitoring and tracking Afghan refugees who have been hospitalized and for transporting them to and from the Dulles Expo Center, where they are temporarily housed. The request came after a federal contractor “took hours to retrieve some of the evacuees who were ready to be discharged,” the Post reported.
Kristin Nickerson, executive director of the Northern Virginia Emergency Response System, said that federal officials also lost track of a one-month-old infant suffering from an undisclosed life-threatening illness. Eventually, the baby was found — still in a hospital — via a patient-tracking system her organization put in place, she told the Post.
“Our hospitals are already almost at capacity,” Nickerson, who is also in charge of the Northern Virginia Hospital Alliance, said in reference to turning away American citizens. “It’s not like they have tons of free beds available. We are still in the middle of a pandemic.”
She did not name the hospital.
Nickerson went on to lament the overall treatment of the Afghan refugees, whom she said also endured many hardships on their journey to the U.S. including being victimized by Taliban fighters.
“This was terrible for the refugees who have already traveled for days, who have been awake for days, who have children who, often, haven’t eaten in days,” she told the Post.
The paper noted that Afghan refugees continue to arrive at the Dulles Expo Center, where they usually stay for 24-48 hours before being moved to U.S. military facilities in the region and across the country. The paper added that the cost of taking care of the refugees is also continuing to rise, with the burden being placed on U.S. and Virginia taxpayers.
To defray some of the costs locally, officials appealed to Daniel Carey, Virginia’s secretary of Health and Human Resources, in an Aug. 28 letter for state and federal tax dollars to be utilized to care for the influx of refugees.
“To meet the current need, we are leveraging what little resources we have to augment the existing team at the moment, but this is not sustainable with only a staff of 12,” the letter noted, according to the Post.
J. Stephen Jones, chief executive of the Inova Health System, told the paper that the impact the Afghan refugees are having on Northern Virginia hospitals won’t abate anytime soon because they will continue to arrive from way stations overseas.
“These are real human beings and taking care of people is complex,” Jones said. “These folks have had their lives disrupted, and everything we can do to coordinate that care will be in their interest and in our community’s best interest.”
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