Chicago Health Center caters only to refugees

Here is a story yesterday from the Chicago Tribune:

Differences in culture, religion and language pose daily challenges at the West Rogers Park health center, where the waiting room might find Iraqis standing next to refugees from Myanmar, or Burundis sitting alongside Somalis and Bhutanese.

On a recent snowy, bitterly cold day, 77 refugees from various countries were treated at the clinic. Among the patients seen by Dr. Gary Kaufman, the clinic’s medical director, were two young sisters from Myanmar who needed immunizations and a 55-year-old man, also from Myanmar, who needed a checkup after recent heart surgery.

I wonder who paid for the heart surgery?   Guess these poor people have health care.

Since 1975, about 130,000 refugees have resettled in the Chicago area, and many pass through the doors of the Touhy clinic, which opened in the early 1970s. Except for the physicians, the staff members are themselves former refugees.

The health center is bracing for a new wave of clients this year, as Illinois expects an increase in refugees moving to the state, and most are headed to Chicago. In 2007, Illinois resettled 1,877 refugees. Last year, it was 2,412. By the end of September, an estimated 2,800 more are expected.

Refugees often land at the Touhy clinic shortly after they arrive because they are required to undergo a health assessment. But some of the center’s patients choose to get their primary care there long after they have met federal government requirements.

Most new arrivals in the Chicago area are Iraqi, Bhutanese and Burmese (from Myanmar, formerly known as Burma), said Marie Jochum, case manager for the refugee resettlement program at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Looks like the taxpayers of the US pay a big chunk of the cost of running this clinic.

Common health problems among the refugees include diabetes, high blood pressure, tuberculosis, hepatitis B, post-traumatic stress disorder and poor nutrition.

All disabled refugees are referred to Touhy because of its relationship to Sinai’s Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital, Silverman said.

In fiscal year 2008, Mt. Sinai spent more than $700,000 running the center and received about $322,000 from a government grant earmarked for refugees.

I don’t know the answer, so someone please tell me.  Can a poor 55-year-old American man living in say rural America get heart surgery paid by the taxpayer?    If so, why all the hoopla about health care?

Note also that TB is being treated here.   We have reported on many previous occasions that refugees are entering the US with tuberculosis.  One Somali man died of TB working in a Tyson’s meat packing plant in Emporia, KS a couple of years ago. The mainstream media told you all about the American guy with TB flying internationally, but I bet you never heard a word about this Somali refugee dying with it in Kansas.

To add a little humor (I suppose it’s funny to some) to this story the reporter tells us about cultural differences that make treating women from Muslim countries more challenging.

Gittler recalled treating a Muslim woman who had been living in a Kenyan refugee camp for a number of years.

The Arabic interpreter at Touhy is a man, and he translated for the patient while standing behind a screen that shielded the woman. But it wasn’t easy.

The woman was an amputee, and at one point Gittler needed the translator to ask the woman if it was OK to lift her skirt and look at the site of her amputated limb. The woman needed to be fitted with a prosthetic leg—and the prosthetist also was a man. [End of story, we never learn if they managed to get her skirt up!]

If you are interested in more information on refugee health issues, visit our category on the topic here.   To date we have 75 posts on the subject.