Communication Issues Causing Confusion at Valley Clinics

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HARLINGEN –  A Rio Grande Valley health director says some patients are providing false phone numbers and addresses. He says this can put the entire public at risk if the person has a contagious illness.

He adds health clinics should always double-check their patient’s identity. 

"Verifies insurances, verify addresses, telephone numbers to that extent and do have emergency contact information that we try to get from patients,” said  Family Nurse Practitioner Israel Vega.

Vega told CHANNEL 5 NEWS he started seeing patients 12 years ago. 

"My particular clinic; I don't have too much misinformation from patients,” he said. 

Harlingen Health Director Josh Ramirez said in other parts of the city and county, others are trying to find some of their patients. 

"We have a lot of migratory visitors, the population that comes and go. They go they register, sign in, and put their phone number and address. OK, the patient gets in,” he said. 

Ramirez explained the issues arise when nurses conduct their follow-up appointments.

"Well, he's not answering the phones and a nurse gets dispatched to go look for the patient and the patient gave a false address or a vacant property,” he explained. 

He said this is dangerous for the entire Valley.

"So, now we have a patient out there that is contagious and possibly spreading the illness to other locations,” explained Vega.  

Ramirez said he wants clinics to work like Vega's clinic. He is now focused on fixing this issue. 

"Coming up with ways to communicate among clinics, hospitals and even with our Mexican counterparts,” he suggested.

He said he wants people not to be intimidated by their diagnosis or legal status:

"We're not Border Patrol, we're not immigration. We're not going to call and report them. All we care for is the health, the health of their family and of course our neighbors and population,” said Ramirez.

Vega said still, some people decide to stay in the shadows.

"I'm pretty sure it's likely happening because we have prevalence tuberculosis here and other diseases like that because of Mexico,” said Vega. 

Vega and Ramirez said they want those affected to trust medical professionals. 

Ramirez said he hopes bringing this issue to light will help those giving false information to realize the potential danger they could be causing. 


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