Forum Focuses on Impact of Illegal Immigrants on Ind. Medical Care

A doctor who oversees a northern Indiana emergency room told a panel of Republican congressmen that he did not believe tightening border security to slow illegal immigration would do much to stem the troubles faced by hospitals.

The forum on immigration Tuesday before U.S. Reps. Chris Chocola and Steve Buyer from Indiana and Rep. Jim McCrery from Louisiana is among at least two dozen such sessions GOP congress members are holding this summer across the country.

Much of Tuesday’s forum focused on the impact of illegal immigrants on Indiana’s health care system.

Dr. Randy Thompson, medical director of emergency medicine at St. Anthony Memorial Hospital in Michigan City, said illegal immigrants already in the country and the uninsured would continue to affect the system. Thompson also said the problems facing the health care system go beyond immigration.

“We have to keep our doors open,” he said. “We don’t care if (patients) have money or insurance.”

He drew applause from some of the 70 audience members when he told the congressmen that he did not believe emergency rooms should screen patients to determine their legal status.

“My job as a physician is that I’m here to take care of a patient,” Thompson said. “I don’t care what color they are, or if they’re legal or illegal.”

Other topics during the forum included discussion of an employee verification system designed to verify the legal status of job applicants.

Edward Nelson, president of Indiana Packers Corp., a Delphi-based pork processing operation, said the system has worked for his company and that he believed all employers should be required to use it in order to reduce the hiring of illegal immigrants.