Conference Coverage

ED clinicians’ confidence in dealing with ICE mixed, survey finds

 

Key clinical point: Emergency physicians’ knowledge of how to interact with immigration agencies is highly variable.

Major finding: More than half of respondents (52%) said that they would not feel comfortable interacting with immigration officers in the ED.

Study details: A survey of 128 emergency medicine physicians.

Disclosures: The researchers reported having no financial disclosures.

Source: Palter J et al. Ann Emerg Med. 2018 Oct;72;4:S117. doi. 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2018.08.303.


 

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– Most emergency physicians have limited comfort and knowledge about appropriate interactions with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in the ED, based on results from a survey conducted at two Chicago hospitals.

Dr. Charlotte Roy, University of Chicago Hospital Doug Brunk/MDedge News

Dr. Charlotte Roy

“More robust training and education may improve provider comfort and ability to appropriately balance patients’ rights with law enforcement,” one of the study authors, Charlotte Roy, MD, said at the annual meeting of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is a federal government agency responsible for the detainment and deportation of immigrants whom they deem to be in violation of federal immigration law. Typically, hospitals have fallen into the category of “sensitive locations,” meaning they are avoided by ICE for enforcement actions, said Dr. Roy, a third-year resident in the department of emergency medicine at University of Chicago Hospital. However, “we’ve seen an increase in the apprehension and removal of illegal immigrants by 30% in 2017 across all locations,” she said.

In an effort to assess provider comfort, knowledge, and previous training on the subject, Dr. Roy and her colleagues administered a 15-question multiple-choice survey to 128 emergency residents, fellows, and attendings at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County and University of Chicago Hospital. Most of the 128 survey participants were residents (70), followed by 54 fellows and 4 attendings. One of the two hospital ED programs offered formal training on the topic, yet only 44% of respondents from that program reported that they participated in the training.

Examples of questions included “Do you know in what circumstances you are required to give protected health information of patients to immigration officers?” “Do you feel confident in your knowledge of which areas of the emergency department ICE agents could enter?” and “Are you confident you can get real-time help to answer questions regarding interactions with immigration officers?”

Among all respondents, 52% said that they would not feel comfortable interacting with immigration officers in the ED, 12% felt confident knowing which areas of the ED immigration officers could freely enter, and 11% were familiar with the designation of “sensitive locations” within their hospital. In addition, 23% of respondents knew that immigration status is protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 as protected health information, 16% knew in which circumstances they were required to convey immigrant status, and 51% knew a warrant or a court order is required for an immigration office to enter a patient’s room.

“Our conclusion based on these survey results is that there is very limited comfort and knowledge amongst ED providers regarding interactions with ICE officers in the ED,” Dr. Roy said. One resource she recommended is the National Immigration Law Center, which publishes a guide, “What to Do If Immigration Comes to Your Workplace.” The study’s primary author was Joseph Palter, MD. The researchers reported having no financial disclosures.

Source: Palter J et al. Ann Emerg Med. 2018 Oct;72;4:S117. doi. 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2018.08.303.

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