Doctor Speaks Out Against Feds Silencing Medical Staff on Border
HOUSTON, Texas--Early in July it was revealed that doctors and nurses were allegedly threatened with arrest if they disclosed any information about the diseases discovered in federal housing facilities for illegal immigrants. Many on the left have claimed that by speaking out about their work at the facilities, medical personnel would be violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which "protects the privacy of individually identifiable health information." But Dr. Elizabeth Lee Vliet--an experienced physician and nationally recognized speaker--told Breitbart Texas that under the law nurses and doctors are free to speak out.
"It is not a violation of HIPAA for a doctor or nurse to speak out about a public health concern and not mention a patient's name," Vliet said. "Medical personnel should be free to be interviewed and speak about the kinds of diseases they are seeing and the frequency of them. This would serve the public good and safety--again, it is not a violation of HIPAA."
So far a slew of sicknesses have been brought into the U.S. by the recent tidal wave of illegal immigrants. Breitbart Texas recently reported on an outbreak of scabies in one housing facility for unaccompanied border minors--the infestation was contracted by numerous Border Patrol agents. Other additional illnesses have also been noted. "We are starting to see chickenpox, MRSA staph infections, we are starting to see different viruses," Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol agent Chris Cabrera told ABC 15.
At this point, it is somewhat unclear how or when the migrants are being checked for illnesses. Omar Zamora of the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector previously told Breitbart Texas, "We don't screen for diseases. All we are is a processing center, so we don't do that."
Most of the border minors are being kept in overcrowded facilities ridden with poor hygiene; according to Dr. Vliet, this is the ideal condition for a viral outbreak.
She said, "Many people are trying to diminish the seriousness of this. They say, 'We have these diseases in the U.S.' Well yes, we do, but they've been well controlled, we have good hygiene, and most of our parents keep children home when they're sick. ... It's a very real risk. It could get out of hand very quickly; but since these are common disease that people have heard of, the risk isn't necessarily taken seriously."
Vliet mentioned that chickenpox--one of the illnesses identified within the migrant population--can be deadly and has the potential to spread to the general public. She said, "Chickenpox is highly contagious. What's worse about that is that it's much more severe when adults get it--in older people, it can cause death. It's very serious."
In Vliet's view, nurses and doctors in facilities have the right to speak out about medical dangers--and they should, she said, in order to decrease the chance of illnesses being contracted by the general public.
It is apparent, however, that the federal government is attempting to hide certain aspects of the border crisis. In June Breitbart Texas reported that Border Patrol agents were threatened with criminal charges for speaking to the press. And one month earlier, in May, Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) ordered agents not to speak to reporters regarding the 36,000 convicted criminal illegal immigrants that were released onto U.S. soil.
"We were given specific instructions not to comment on that report," Greg Palmore, a Texas-based ICE spokesman, told Breitbart Texas. He was referring to the report by the Center for Immigration Studies that outlined the criminals' release.
Follow Kristin Tate on Twitter @KristinBTate.