The number of migrants who have fallen while trying to climb over the U.S. southern border wall in an attempt to illegally enter the U.S. and suffered debilitating injuries has increased significantly, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
Since the project to replace the previous 400 miles of fencing on the border in California, which was from 8 to 17 feet, with a 30-foot-tall steel bollard barrier was finished in 2019, the number of patients admitted to the trauma center at U.C. San Diego Health trauma center who fell from the border wall has gone up sevenfold to 311 last year.
This year, that number is expected to be more than 350, according to the hospital, which said the number of deaths from falls has gone from zero between 2016 and 2019 to 23.
Physicians along the border say that the rise in recent years is significant even when taking into account the higher number of border apprehensions, and that the influx of severely injured patients is also putting a strain American hospitals along the border.
“The problem is getting worse and worse,” Dr. Jay Doucet, chief of the trauma unit at U.C. San Diego Health, which is some 15 miles from the Tijuana-San Ysidro border crossing, told The New York Times. “And the hospital system is taking a big hit.”
The cost of caring for migrants at San Diego’s two trauma centers — U.C. San Diego Health and Scripps Mercy Hospital — has risen from $11 million between 2016 and 2019 to $72 million from 2020 to June 2022, the latest number available.
The injured migrants typically lack insurance but frequently require multiple complex surgeries and extended inpatient care.
In addition, caring for gravely injured migrants has affected treatment for the local population. In just one example, the wait time for spinal procedures has gone up to nearly two weeks from three days.
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