Thursday, March 5, 2009

Looking Back....Paul Kramer Calls the American Consulate in Haiti

Peoria Journal Star
January 6, 2003


St. Francis frustrates doctor -- Haitian Hearts founder fears hospital letter to U.S. consulate will impede children's visas

PEORIA - OSF Saint Francis Medical Center is owed more than $500,000 for the treatment of Haitian children, a hospital official said.

The American consulate in Haiti has been contacted by representatives of the hospital about the distribution of visas to children seeking heart surgery at St. Francis, prompting Dr. John Carroll to demonstrate Sunday.

Carroll, a former emergency room physician at the hospital and a founder of Haitian Hearts, said he ''could not comment on the $500,000'' but said ''figures can be hard to come by from the Children's Hospital of Illinois Foundation, and it's hard for us to know where we stand.''

Carroll worked at St. Francis for 21 years before being fired in December 2001.

Haitian Hearts brings children from Haiti to Peoria for medical treatment, mainly heart surgery, at St. Francis. The program has made it possible for 94 children to receive necessary surgery at the hospital.

''We have uncompensated expenses in excess of $500,000 for Haitian kids brought through,'' said hospital spokesman Chris Lofgren. ''There needs to be controls placed. Any organization has limitations on what they can afford.''

Last week, Carroll received a certified letter from St. Francis' lawyers, Hinshaw & Culbertson, telling him that the American consulate in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, has been contacted about visa distribution for Haitian children seeking heart surgery at St. Francis.

He fears this contact may make it ''next to impossible for me to obtain visas'' for the sick children.

''My long-standing relationship with the consulate has probably been destroyed,'' Carroll said.

In protest, Carroll, 49, paced and carried a sign Sunday afternoon outside St. Francis, which read: ''OSF Administration: Respect for Life Includes Haitians.''

''Dr. Carroll needs to engage in conversation with the people trying to contact him,'' Lofgren said.

Carroll said he has ''been contemplating'' talking with administrators.

Since 1995, Carroll has traveled to Haiti about four times a year to bring children who need medical treatment to Peoria - treatment that Carroll says the island country cannot provide but is available at St. Francis.

''The technology is not there in Haiti . . . even the electricity can't be depended on,'' he said.

Carroll will fly to Haiti on Tuesday, where he plans to see if the consulate will continue to grant him visas. He has not yet called the consulate or set up any meetings, he said.

''I have to see how much damage has been done by the OSF administration or their legal counsel,'' Carroll said. ''(The program) has been working well over the years - we hate to see it destroyed because Haitian children will be destroyed.''

The Peoria native said he has up to 20 children waiting for treatment.
Lofgren said the hospital has ''not refused service'' to children brought in by Carroll, even with the debt in place.

''Last year, OSF St. Francis Medical Center and the Children's Hospital of Illinois provided a total of $34 million in uncompensated care to local and international children,'' Lofgren said.

In July, the hospital decided to stop providing $257,000 annually to Haitian Hearts, opting instead to offer 55 percent off regular charges.

To fill the hole, Carroll and other Haitian Hearts supporters held fund-raisers and sought donations. Carroll said $435,000 was raised in 2002 for his program.
He could not set a price for the average amount of treatment each child receives, saying it depends on the type of surgery.

All the money raised goes toward medical care, Carroll continued, with no overhead cost and no money given to the Peoria families who take in the Haitian children after surgery.

Lofgren said there's ''not really a set amount'' for the service the hospital is willing to provide, but the ''Sisters have been very generous in 125 years.''

Carroll thinks the original mission of the Sisters of St. Francis is being defiled.
''The Sisters' mission needs to be preserved, and that's what we're trying to do,'' Carroll said. ''There's a huge gap between the Sisters' mission in theory and the way the administration is approaching it.''

Mary Kay Hersemann has taken in five Haitian children into her Washington home since 1995.

Hersemann, 48, said when she and others from the Haitian Hearts program attempted to talk with members of the hospital's administration in the past, ''They don't clearly answer questions. They use intimidation and fear - fear sometimes works.''

CAPTION: Dr. John Carroll

My comments today, March 5, 2009:

1. OSF had no idea regarding charges. They had to say something on the weekend when I protested in front of the hospital. Chris Lofgren described my protest as a public relations nightmare for OSF. OSF changed the charges day to day in the newspaper (as can be seen in the following posts) and then had Dr. Rick Pearl "forgive our debt". (No one knew that Dr. Pearl was asking me to bring him Haitian patients to operate over the previous years.) And OSF didn't want anyone looking at their books so they decided to "forgive". And note that OSF cut out ALL financial support (257 thousand dollars/year) for Haitian Hearts six months earlier in July, 2002. And contrary to what was reported in the article, OSF was charging Haitian Hearts 55 per cent of total charges, not 45 percent.

2. Picketing OSF that morning was a very painful experience. But I thought Paul Kramer's call to the American Consulate in Haiti was inexcusable. His action was against the 125 year old mission philosophy of OSF. The Consulate official in Haiti was hyperventilating when she told me that Paul Kramer had called. She knew that would mean Haitian kids would die.

3. This day was the beginning of a very dark history for OSF. A few years later Jackson Jean-Baptiste and Maxime Petion would die after they were refused care at OSF.

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