MCALLEN, Texas (KVEO) — As hospitals in the Rio Grande Valley remain packed and at capacity, doctors say they are not only treating Rio Grande Valley residents but people who crossed the border seeking medical attention.
“We are giving care to our population, but also to patients from Mexico, by law we must give medical attention to anyone who comes to our hospitals,” said Dr. Ivonne Lopez, M.D., Medical Director of McAllen Hospital Group at McAllen Medical Center.
Doctors on the frontline say legally they can not turn someone down for medical treatment.
“By law, if a patient arrives to our hospital, we need to provide all the care that is needed,” said Dr. Lopez.
The border is closed to non-essential travel, but according to CBP, “Individuals traveling for medical purposes, such as to receive medical treatment in the United States” is permitted.
You can read more about the border shut down here:
“One of the factors is the border, we in McAllen Medical are receiving many patients from Mexico, they are coming in because their resources over there are also limited so they are coming in to our area seeking medical attention and by law we have to provide it,” said Dr. Lopez, “The patients that cross the border say ‘we don’t have hospital space over there, the oxygen is gone, we don’t have medications so we cross the border’, that’s the situation in the border.”
Dr. Ivan Melendez, the Health Authority of Hidalgo County says Mexican nationals are coming due to the lack of medical resources in Mexico.
“Contacts I have from my friends that are in Matamoros and Reynosa paint quite a grim story- that story shows hospitals packaged to the gills, there aren’t any beds, people can’t come in, I had one day someone send me a list of 45 people in a particular hospital in Reynosa and 45 people out of 45 beds diagnosed with a typical pneumonia, and I called him and he said we don’t have tests so we’re assuming they’re COVID,” said Dr. Ivan Melendez, M.D., Hidalgo County Health Authority.
Melendez says even though Mexican nationals are coming, they are not entering in large quantities.
“The river is a poor area and we know people are coming over, and yes, we see people coming over that indeed are Mexican nationals, but do I see it as a predominate amount? No. Do I have a number? No. Is it anecdotal? I believe so, at least in the McAllen area, I believe the great majority of our folks are local folks,” said Melendez, “So are they coming? Yes, but not in large numbers, they are not taking our resources.”
According to data from the Mexican Government, Reynosa, which borders McAllen has the highest rate of COVID-19 with 2,754 confirmed cases.
Matamoros which borders Brownsville has 2,263 confirmed cases.
You can read more about that data here.
But doctors say those numbers may not be accurate.
“We believe the numbers from Mexico are extremely under-reported, we don’t think it’s under-reported because of malice or an attempt to misreport, I just don’t see think testing is up to part,” said Dr. Melendez.
Saturday, 85 medical personnel sent from the State of Texas is arriving at McAllen Medical for help due to overwhelmed hospitals.