By Vianey Gomez
The lack of affordable healthcare is common in the Central Valley, especially for the immigrant community. My father, an immigrant himself, knows the lack of health resources. He was injured in a terrible accident where he works. My father got stuck between a wall and a backhoe, hurting his knee and lower back.
The company he works for did not want to send my father to a clinic or the hospital to be examined, and the next day my dad was still required to go to work despite his injuries. I was worried about him and took him to the Emergency Room that same day. We arrived at the Emergency Room around 5:30 p.m. and had to stay there until 5:39 a.m. the next day.
But that was not the worst part. The hospital bill arrived at our house recently. The bill was for $2,240.60 and needed to be paid within a week. As a low-income, immigrant community, we do not have the money to pay for such a costly bill, which is why the Medical Indigent Service Program (MISP) is needed as a human right for everyone regardless of immigration status.
Sadly, my family’s story is common. I know another story of a hardworking immigrant mother and her son from Fresno. Their employer from the company they both work for had them clean a house that had been fumigated. By law, nobody is supposed to enter a house in such toxic conditions. The woman and her son inhaled strong chemicals that not only kill roaches, mice and termites but also cause health problems for people. During another work incident, she fell from a ladder and injured her right knee, which had previously been damaged from a car accident.
Currently, this mother needs a $5,000 surgery and, unfortunately, the MISP does not cover such serious injuries. We need the MISP to cover costly and sudden accidents that this immigrant mother and others have suffered, in order for these workers to live another day with their families. Grisanti Valencia, the second oldest daughter, is fund-raising the money her mother needs to pay for the surgery and shared her story at a community event held at the Mosqueda Community Center.
The #Health4All community event was hosted by Building Healthy Communities to inform the community about the MISP and the $5.5 million deal written by Assembly Member Henry T. Perea (D–Fresno), which could be a potential temporary solution to saving the MISP services. If the Fresno County Board of Supervisors agrees to continue the MISP services to the undocumented community, the county will be relieved of the $5.5 million it owes to the state in transportation debt.
Many people are being denied the right to be healthy. Decision makers are lucky that they, unlike my father, do not have to wait for 12 hours in the emergency room. The MISP is important not only for my family but also for everyone who needs financial assistance for specialty care regardless of immigration status. There are also people who are going through other severe situations in which they are not heard and turned away from public health services, sometimes resulting in death due to lack of care.
It is absurd that those who make health decisions for these communities in Fresno County do not consider us undocumented people as humans who also get sick, have severe diseases and experience accidents without the funds to pay for health services. We all deserve a chance to survive. Health is not an immigration issue; it is a human issue, and it should be treated as such.
Vianey Q. Gomez is an intern from Dream Summer 2014 and can be reached at 559-761-6190 or firstname.lastname@example.org.