Drug-war patients’ treatment costs $4.7Million
It has become routine.
A person is shot and wounded in Juárez, a Mexican ambulance carries the victim across an international bridge and a U.S. ambulance takes the patient to University Medical Center of El Paso.
Since the start of the Juárez drug war three years ago, 200 people wounded in Mexico have been treated at El Paso’s county-run hospital at a cost of $4.7 million, according to the latest figures from UMC. Three-quarters were U.S. citizens.
The number of the patients classified as “victims related to the violence in Mexico” decreased this year compared with 2009. Hospital officials said there have been 64 such patients so far this year compared with 83 a year ago.
Violence in Juárez has reached unthinkable levels spurred by a war between the Juárez and Sinaloa drug cartels that erupted in 2008. More than 3,000 people have been murdered in Juárez this year.
Hospitals are not neutral ground in Mexico, where it is not uncommon for hit men to finish off targets in emergency rooms.
Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals face other problems in Juárez, where they are targeted by extortionists charging protection fees and kidnappers seeking ransom. The situation became so bad that earlier this month doctors went on a 24-hour strike to protest the lack of security.
“This particular challenge that UMC has been facing is a direct result of federal drug policy,” El Paso County Judge-elect Veronica Escobar said. “It is a drug war in Mexico, but that drug war is linked to drug consumption in the United States.”