Doctors associated with Harvard and Johns Hopkins called for an investigation into health care at border facilities in a letter to members of Congress Thursday. The letter comes in response to the deaths of six migrant children either in government custody or soon after their release.
At least three of the children died from the flu, according to autopsies. The doctors wrote in their letter that flu deaths “are fairly rare events for children living in the United States.” Domestically, the U.S. experiences a rate of about one flu death per 600,000 children, according to the doctors. Among migrants children in custody, the numbers are far higher, they wrote.”This rate of death from influenza appears to be substantially less than the rate in detention facilities, with at least three deaths in as many as 200,000 children detained — many for less than the length of the season,” they wrote.
The letter includes a list of topics and questions that the doctors suggest be posed to each facility holding migrant children, ranging from health screening to treatment and surveillance for infectious illnesses like the flu.”We suspect that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) may not be following best practices with respect to screening, treatment, isolation, and prevention of influenza,” the doctors wrote.In a statement to CBS News, a spokesperson for HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which houses unaccompanied migrant children, said every child in the agency’s care receives a complete medical examination in the first 48 hours. In addition, the agency “requires all care providers to report incidents affecting a child’s health, well-being and safety.””As such, ORR provides routine and emergency medical and mental health care for all unaccompanied alien children (UAC) in its care, including an initial medical examination, appropriate follow-up care, and weekly individual and group counseling sessions with care provider clinicians,” the spokesperson said.The letter was sent to Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Connecticut, who chairs the subcommittee that oversees HHS, and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-California, who chairs the subcommittee on Homeland Security.”This is alarming, but unfortunately not surprising, given the way the Departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security are responding to the crisis on the border,” DeLauro said in a statement to CBS News. “Even under the best circumstances, the flu is a dangerous threat to people. This Administration continues to exacerbate this crisis to an untenable degree. Much of the problem stems from the lack of coordination, the lack of basic standards of care and procedures to ensure children are screened for health issues, treated quickly and safely, and get the proper vaccinations.”Prior to September 2018, it had been a decade since any children had died in Border Patrol custody, according to government figures. Since then, five Guatemalan children and one child from El Salvador have died either in custody or soon after their release to hospitals.