Urge investigations of East Boston Neighborhood Health Center
Centro Presente and Lawyers for Civil Rights requested that the Massachusetts Attorney General and the Department of Public Health look into medical care provided by East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, on March 15. There had been complaints of discriminatory medical treatment of immigrants, many of which were made by women and people using MassHealth insurance. The two groups highlighted many different incidents where immigrant patients received inadequate care, “including failure to perform tests or lab work and misdiagnosis — that has resulted in worsened medical conditions, prolonged hospital stays, late diagnoses of cancer, and even death,” according to a media release.
“Patients and their families have repeatedly reported substandard, discriminatory treatment at EBNHC, resulting in misdiagnosis, worsened health conditions, and even death. The community has identified the problem and is now prepared to address it head on through legal action,” said Patricia Montes, executive director of Centro Presente.
“State law forbids healthcare providers from discriminating on the basis of race, national origin, sex, or MassHealth insurance status,” said Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of Lawyers for Civil Rights. “That is why it is vital that this investigation be conducted jointly by the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Public Health.”
Some allegations made by patients are listed below:
- “A Honduran immigrant woman on MassHealth, brought her infant child to EBNHC for medical care, only to be sent home. The following day, her baby’s condition worsened, and she brought him back to EBNHC. This time, staff called for an ambulance to rush him to a hospital, but it was too late. Tragically, the baby died en route to the emergency room.”
- “A Salvadoran immigrant woman took her two-year-old son to EBNHC because she found a bump on his penis. The nurse examined the child, and they were sent home. Approximately a week later, the child’s condition worsened. The mother brought him to the emergency room at Boston Medical Center where doctors explained to her that the infection her child had was advanced and should have been diagnosed and treated much earlier.”
- “A woman of Salvadoran descent on MassHealth, went to EBNHC because she had chest pain, fatigue, and heart palpitations. An EKG was run, and a doctor deemed the results to be normal. The doctor told the patient that she had an irritation in her lungs and prescribed ibuprofen. The patient’s symptoms worsened, so she sought treatment elsewhere, where she was diagnosed with stage three lung cancer.”
Shira Laucharoen is a reporter based in Boston. She currently serves as the assistant director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. In the past she has written for Sampan newspaper, The Somerville Times, Scout Magazine, Boston Magazine, and WBUR.