Sister agitates on health Ah, that Sister Regina. She’s created a great stir in the church, you know. She’s a turrble great activist, she is. Father O’Brien of Amarillo Lubbock Sister Regina Foppe of Lubbock is the director of Social Action Services for the Diocese of Amarillo and she is indeed a turrble great activist. A political nun, no less. Every spring for the past four years, Sister Regina has gone off to Washington to be a lobbyist. Last November she was up testifying before a congressional committee. In April, she went to Atlanta to testify before the platform committee of the Democratic Party. In between times, she does grass-roots organizing, supports Common Cause, operates her office in a black neighborhood and, above all, works with the chicanos of West Texas. Her particular cause is national health insurance because she knows, first-hand, what happens to people who cannot afford health care or health insurance. “Many people in West Texas today are denied preventive health care services because of lack of ability to pay,” she told the subcommittee on health of the House Ways and Means Committee last winter. “To my knowledge, there are no county hospitals, and most of the communities have no free clinics, a number of small communities are without doctors. This has created serious problems, and when those least able to pay must finally be hospitalized, their hospital stays are longer and more costly, creating a complex monster which ruins families. Good credit ratings are destroyed for the next seven years, in most instances a vicious cycle of poverty is created, and the economic base of the family is totally destroyed. Most low-income blue collar workers do not understand or use laws pertaining to the declaration of bankruptcy, so they lose their houses, home furnishings, and car as they go into repossession. Motivation is impaired and finally drives them to enter the welfare rolls.” From the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, March 4, 1976: headline; HOSPITAL REFUSES TO ADMIT TINY ASSAULT VICTIM; THREE-YEAR-OLD RAPE VICTIM DENIED HOSPITAL ADMIT-TANCE: dateline, LittlefieldA threeyear-old girl, who was raped and beaten before she was hurled into a pig pen, was refused hospitalization here Friday because her mother didn’t have a $400 deposit. The child underwent emergency treatment at Littlefield Hospital and Clinic, but administrator Kenneth Day refused to admit her as a patient because her mother didn’t have insurance, didn’t qualify for county indigent medical care and lacked a $400 deposit. The child’s mother, however, had a federal Sister Regina Medicaid card. from Colorado which the hospital refused to accept. The Mexican-American child, hemorrhaging from lacerations and tears she suffered in the rape, was transferred about three blocks away to Medical Arts Clinic Hospital where doctors listed her in serious condition. Sister Regina has been working on collecting statistics about health care, or the lack of it, among South Plains chicanos. When one testifies before government committees or church conferences or political groups, she has discovered, it is helpful to have some numbersnumbers seem to impress some people more than stories of what is happening to human beings. Sister Regina is particularly concerned with the plight of those who have fallen into the crevices between the creaking parts of our jerry-built health care system. What happens to those who are too poor to afford health insurance, who work where there is no employee insurance program, who are too “rich” to be on Medicare or Medicaid? “I had a captive audience to get my information,” said Sister Regina, beaming at the thought. Specifically, she used the parishioners of several entirely chicano churches in the area. On Sunday, Oct. 26, 1975, seven churches cooperated in a “Poll on Health Insurance for the Family.” West Texas Health Systems and James E. Archer & Associates in Lubbock assisted in computerizing the-results. Of the 694 families polled, almost 54 percent had incomes within 150 percent of the poverty level, i.e., are almost poor. In this slightly-better-than-poverty-level group, the poll found that there was simply no way the families could handle health in surance. Most of the adults work in agriculture-related fieldsat compresses, cotton seed mills, irrigation work, field work. An average of 41.8 percent of the families in all the parishes had no medical insurance whatever. Many of those who qualify for Medicare or Medicaid are without insurance either through ignorance or denial. Of those adults who are employed where there are insurance programs available, 42.5 percent of the other members in these households have no insurance. Three hours later the child was taken by ambulance to Lubbock’s Methodist Hospital where she underwent surgery. She was released Tuesday. According to county welfare worker Doris Frey, she phoned Medical Arts hospital after a friend of the child’s family and the county attorney notified her of the child’s condition and Littlefield Hospital’s refusal to admit her. “They said the woman [child’s mother] had a federal Medicaid card from Colorado, so I called Medical Arts and they said they’d take her,” Mrs. Frey said. Mrs. Carlene King, administrator of Medical Arts, confirmed the woman had a Medicaid card issued in Colorado where she lived. “We’ve had no trouble collecting on outof-state Medicaid,” Mrs. King said. “We’ll be a long time getting our money, but that’s not important right now.” Mrs. King said the girl was screaming and in obvious pain when she was brought to Medical Arts. “A nurse carried her up the stairs and she screamed with each step. It upset us allshe was in bad shape.” “You see, there are no county hospitals for the poor out here in West Texas,” said Sister Regina. “The only place that will take them here in Lubbock is the Catholic hospital. I’m on the board there, and even we get a little nervous sometimes.” According to attending physicians there, the child suffered a large tear in her genital area and abrasions and lacerations over her body. The little girl’s relatives said they found her in a pig pen after they missed her from a party they were having at a farmhouse about four miles from this farming community…. According to Day, the administrator who refused to hospitalize the child, a doctor at Littlefield Hospital “examined the child and cleaned her up.” Day said the doctor advised against stitching the girl’s wound because of the posiibility of later infection from debris in the pig pen where she was found. “He told the woman to take her home, keep it [wound] clean, and to watch for infection,” Day said. “He said after it healed, to bring her back for plastic surgery.” May 21, 1976 5
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