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Denver Health says migrant surge causing strain on hospital, more funding needed

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Posted at 2:21 PM, Dec 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-18 16:21:11-05

DENVER — The surge of migrants in Denver is taking a toll on our local healthcare system.

Denver Health estimates that 10% of patients walking through its emergency room doors are migrants.

While staff said a majority of cases are seasonal illnesses like the flu, the arrivals are presenting challenges for hospital staff.

Chief of Government Community Affairs and Pediatrician at Denver Health Dr. Steve Federico said many arrive sick and with unmet healthcare needs.

“The first place we normally find folks like that are in our emergency department,” said Federico.

From their journey on crowded buses to life in shelters, the mere number needing care is creating a crisis that will require the attention of those at the federal level, he explained.

“Our emergency department has been incredibly overwhelmed by these patients,” said Federico.

Denver7 met a migrant family looking for help right outside of Denver Health.

“It was tough…very difficult. From Venezuela, it took us four months to cross the border from Colombia into Panama,” the woman told us.

Denver Health says migrant surge causing strain on hospital, more funding needed

She said her family arrived in Denver about a week ago. When they got here, her thirteen-year-old son was sick, so she took him to Denver Health.

“They took good care of him. They gave him all the medications there and fortunately we didn’t have to pay for anything,” she said.

Federico said the hospital hasn’t seen an enhancement in funding to take care of this population.

“As you might imagine, these folks do not have health insurance. They can’t afford to pay for their healthcare, so we here at Denver Health, since we take care of everybody within Denver, we end up footing the bill for that care,” Federico explained.

With more than 30,000 migrants arriving in Denver so far, the city has spent more than $35 million on its response, but Denver Health said investing in care will need to be a priority.

“We’re going to need to invest in the healthcare infrastructure as well or it will reach a breaking point,” said Federico.