|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 30, 2006
HHC President Alan Aviles Vows to Keep Patient Immigrant Status Confidential
"Open Letter" to immigrant New Yorkers promises privacy and respect
New York City - New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) President Alan D. Aviles and Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Guillermo Linares today announced the launch of a public awareness campaign designed to address concerns of immigrant New Yorkers who may be avoiding health services in fear of having their immigration status reported to federal authorities. The campaign will feature an open letter from Aviles and Linares stressing every patient's right to health care privacy and the public hospitals' commitment to serve all New Yorkers and keep immigrant status completely confidential. The letter is available in nine languages.
"Immigrant New Yorkers can get quality health care in New York City with no fear. They should feel safe going to the doctor, the clinic or the emergency room. Public hospital employees will honor every patient's right to privacy and will not disclose anyone's immigration status," said HHC President Aviles. "We want immigrant families to know that our number one commitment is to their health. They need to be reassured that keeping their families healthy will not come at the risk of having their status disclosed."
The open letter, which is available in English, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Korean, French Creole, Urdu, Bengali and Albanian, promises to honor immigrants' right to privacy, reaffirms HHC's policy against disclosing patient information and urges immigrants to visit public hospitals. "Our doctors, nurses and other health care workers care about you. They speak many languages. Many of them are immigrants or children of immigrants. They all want to serve you with respect," states the letter from Aviles and Linares.
"Our City has 2.9 million foreign-born persons and an undocumented population estimated at 500,000," said Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Guillermo Linares. "I am pleased to work with HHC on a citywide effort to reach these New Yorkers. Our priority is to build and maintain the confidence of the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who continue to sustain our workforce, economy and communities. Protecting our city means keeping all New Yorkers healthy."
The open letter will be distributed widely to HHC patients and staff, immigrant groups and community based organizations. HHC President Aviles also announced that a number of city-wide ethnic and community newspapers will publish the letter this week as a public service message. HHC's campaign to raise awareness about the public hospital services to immigrants also includes a message from Aviles to 36,000 HHC employees and a series of education sessions for front line staff who will review hospital policy, immigrant laws and address patient needs.
"The national debate about immigration has left many people confused, that's why it is so important that HHC is reminding all immigrants that using health care in New York is safe," said Adam Gurvitch, Director of Health Advocacy at the New York Immigration Coalition, a nonprofit organization that works with 150 groups throughout New York State to protect and promote immigrants' rights. "The rest of the hospital industry needs to follow HHC's lead, and do the right thing to reassure all Americans that hospital workers do not share patients' personal, confidential information, and in particular do not share immigration status information with government agencies," said Gurvitch.
"I'm proud of HHC's long history of caring for everyone regardless of ability to pay or immigration status. I'm also proud of our staff who live up to this commitment every day. They are the caring individuals who heal our patients and can make them feel welcome and protected. I want every HHC employee to deliver this message of reassurance to immigrant New Yorkers who seek our help," said Aviles.
Most children and pregnant women in New York City, regardless of immigration status, are eligible for health insurance. HHC staff helps all uninsured patients apply for the insurance programs they may be eligible for. The public hospitals also help patients who cannot get insurance by providing reduced, affordable rates under the HHC Options program. In order to offer these services, appropriate and authorized HHC employees must ask patients for certain information that may include immigration status, proof of income, home address and date of birth. This information is kept completely confidential. HHC does not compile records or lists of undocumented immigrants nor does it share this information with immigration authorities.
"I encourage all immigrant New Yorkers and service providers to get the facts about our public hospital system and its commitment to protecting patient privacy," said Linares. "It's important that we all read and share this message, and post or email the open letter so that accurate information will circulate throughout all immigrant communities."
The following ethnic community papers have committed to publishing the "Open Letter to Immigrant New Yorkers" as a public service message: El Diario-La Prensa, La Voz Hispana, the Bronx Times Reporter, Norwood News, and Greenline - The North Brooklyn Community News.
HHC's diverse patient population is 43% Latinos, 35 % black, 6% Asian, 6 % white and 10% are a wide mix of ethnicities. HHC also has a very diverse staff -- more than 80% represent communities of color - and many speak multiple languages.
The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) is the largest municipal healthcare system in the country. HHC operates a network of 11 hospitals - Bellevue, Coney Island, Elmhurst, Harlem, Jacobi, Kings County, Lincoln, Metropolitan, North Central Bronx, Queens and Woodhull. The corporation also operates six diagnostic and treatment centers, four long-term care facilities, more than 80 community clinics and a home health care agency. HHC provides care to all regardless of ability to pay. HHC serves 1.3 million New Yorkers annually, including more than 450,000 who have no health insurance. For more information about HHC, visit www.nyc.gov/hhc.