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U.S. Border Patrol Could Do Better

March 22, 1992

Sandra Mahanna (Letters, Feb. 2) asked "who is paying" for the trauma center care for illegal immigrants injured near the San Onofre checkpoint. The answer is no one; the physicians and hospital absorb these costs along with those generated by many other uninsured patients.

Many trauma centers in California have closed due to the increasing burden of "uncompensated care," and to stay open, those remaining are forced to shift much of these costs to employers and individuals who pay their medical bills.

Mahanna was also concerned about criticism of Border Patrol policy by those who provide trauma care to injured illegal immigrants. A very important role of a trauma center is to prevent injury where possible; in fact, Mission Hospital's contribution to a dramatic reduction in teen-age, alcohol-related injuries in south Orange County was recently chronicled in the Los Angeles Times. San Onofre checkpoint-related injuries are also very preventable, and it is the responsibility of this local trauma center to point this out.

We hold rock concert promoters, businesses and individuals responsible for deaths and injuries when their actions create hazardous conditions, and we need to do the same with the U.S. Border Patrol. If we did, its management of the San Onofre checkpoint would quickly change, and the deaths and injuries would stop.

The Border Patrol is clearly faced with an impossible, frustrating task in trying to control our borders. However, this should not result in policies that are expensive at best, and unconscionable at worst. There are better ways to control the borders, and all citizens are responsible for asking that they be implemented.

GREGORY BISHOP, Director, Trauma 2000, Irvine

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