A nurse refused multiple requests to take a sick eight-year-old immigrant girl to hospital on the same dayHe was in US Border Patrol custody in Texas earlier this month, federal investigators said Thursday.
Anadith Tanay Reyes-Alvarez, who had sickle cell anemia and heart disease, died May 17 after she and her family spent more than a week in Border Patrol custody, despite agency rules requiring agents to hold detainees for no more than three days. days.
While the death is still being investigated by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the umbrella agency for border patrol, initial findings have raised serious questions about why the family was detained for so long, and why Reyes Alvarez was not taken to hospital after several instances. Where she and her mother sought medical attention.
On Thursday, the CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility, which is investigating the death, issued a statement confirming that Border Patrol officials and medical personnel contracted by the agency failed — and in some cases, refused — to take Reyes Alvarez to a hospital, despite concerns raised. . by her mother.
Findings released Thursday stemmed from interviews investigators conducted with Border Patrol officials and medical contractors, because cameras at the facility where Reyes Alvarez’s family was last held were not working at the time, according to a CBP statement.
Investigators said medical contractors at the Border Patrol facility in Harlingen, Texas, reported seeing the girl approximately nine separate times between May 14 and the first hour of May 17. The family was moved there after Reyes Alvarez tested positive for the flu. They were first transferred to Border Patrol custody on May 9, after crossing into the United States near Brownsville, Texas.
During those nine visits, investigators said, Reyes-Alvarez complained of pain, fever and flu symptoms. They added that the girl was diagnosed with a fever that peaked at 104.9 degrees on May 16. Medical contractors gave Reyes Alvarez Tamiflu, fever medicine, ice packs, and a cold shower. But she was not taken to hospital.
“Despite the girl’s condition, her mother’s concerns, and the series of treatments required to manage her condition, contract medical staff did not transfer her to a hospital for higher level care,” CBP investigators said.
On May 17 alone, Reyes Alvarez reported stomach pain, nausea, and difficulty breathing. She was seen by a contractor nurse four times that day. The nurse told investigators that Reyes Alvarez’s oxygen levels were checked each time and appeared to be normal. The girl was given Zofran, a medication to prevent nausea, but a nurse refused to take her to the hospital, according to CBP.
“The nurse practitioner also reported refusing three or four requests from the girl’s mother to call an ambulance or take her to hospital,” the agency added.
Another medical contractor told investigators to give the nurses documents and folic acid tablets found on the family’s property. Investigators said the nurse agreed to give Reyes Alvarez one tablet, but refused to review the documents.
At 1:55 p.m. May 17, Reyes Alvarez’s mother returned to the facility’s health unit holding her daughter, who officials said “appeared to be having a seizure.” After she became unresponsive, the officials added, medical contractors called an ambulance and performed CPR.
An ambulance arrived at 2:07 p.m. and took Reyes Alvarez to a hospital in Harlingen. Less than 50 minutes later, CBP said she was pronounced dead there.
Preliminary findings from the autopsy indicated “the presence of a pleural effusion within the chest cavity, noted evidence observed of attempted surgical repair of the girl’s aortic stenosis, and indicated a history presented of sickle cell anemia,” according to CBP.
CBP investigators said none of the Border Patrol officials and medical personnel interviewed as part of the ongoing review reported knowledge of Reyes Alvarez’s sickle cell anemia and heart disease.
Investigators also found that the medical contractors did not record multiple medical visits by Reyes Alvarez, and failed to consult doctors on call, including a pediatrician, about the girl’s symptoms,
In a separate statement Thursday, CBP Acting Commissioner Troy Miller called Reyes Alvarez’s death an unacceptable tragedy, saying the agency will “do what is best to ensure this does not happen again.”
Miller said CBP has begun a review of cases of medically vulnerable immigrants and families in detention to ensure they are promptly removed from agency custody. He also noted that CBP had repaired the cameras at the Harlingen facility and prevented some of the medical contractors involved in the ongoing investigation from working with the agency again.
“CBP’s updated Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) statement regarding the investigation into the death of May 17, 2023 provides important new information about this tragic death that will guide our efforts to ensure this does not happen again,” Miller added.
While Reyes Alvarez was born in Panama, her parents and siblings were from Honduras. They were released from custody at the US border after the death of Reyes Alvarez. The Honduran government has called on US authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the death – a demand echoed by some Democratic lawmakers in Congress.
in Interview Earlier this month with the Associated Press, Reyes Alvarez’s mother said officials have ignored repeated calls for her daughter to be hospitalized while in US custody.
“They killed my daughter, because she had been nearly a day and a half without breathing,” the mother said, according to the Associated Press. “She cried and begged for her life and they ignored her. They didn’t do anything for her.”