Wladyslaw Haniszewski was at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Jersey when he suffered a stroke that left him comatose. However, when hospital staff learned he was an undocumented immigrant from Poland, the stroke victim was deported to his native country -- while unconscious.
According to The New York Daily News, Polish officials were furious when they received the 69-year-old Polish immigrant under the circumstances.
"Imagine being carted around like a sack of potatoes," Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka, Poland's consul general in New York, told the outlet.
Haniszewski, though undocumented and uninsured, had resided in the New Jersey town of Perth Amboy for the better part of 30 years. He was previously admitted to the New Brunswick hospital by a friend for symptoms relating to his blood disease before he suffered a stroke this month.
When Haniszewski finally awoke, he found himself at a hospital in Boleslawiec. Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital had deported the stroke victim to Poland without first obtaining his consent, Polish newspaper Nowy Dziennik reports.
In a statement released to The Huffington Post, the hospital said:
Our patient received advanced care at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital’s Comprehensive Stroke Center for a total of 51 days, and was transferred under clinical supervision via a commercial business class flight into the care of qualified emergency medical technicians who accompanied the patient to the hospital.
The New Jersey hospital was able to deport Haniszewski through a process called medical repatriation.
As the Associated Press noted in a feature story in April, the controversial practice, in which medical officials place undocumented immigrants on chartered flights, is often employed by hospitals looking to cut costs. A recently compiled report by immigrant advocacy groups indicates that at least 600 immigrants were removed from the country through this process in the past five years.
Now, the Polish hospital is responsible for Haniszewski's medical costs. Though Haniszewski is awake, he is reportedly unable to communicate.
According to Poland's TVN24, the Polish consulate in New York is set to investigate whether Haniszewski's deportation is consistent with U.S. law. In its statement to HuffPost, the hospital also said that it's working with the consulate to "ensure the patient’s needs continue to be met."
New Jersey Assemblyman and Deputy Speaker John S. Wisniewski (D) is also planning to inquire whether Haniszewski's legal rights were violated.
"As a country that owes much of its strength to its immigrant population, I fear this may be another in a number of recent incidents that have been fueled by a growing intolerance for immigrants among some of our fellow countrymen and denies too many U.S. residents of the basic human dignity to which we all are entitled as human beings," Wisniewski said in a released statement.
UPDATE, June 27: A hospital representative contacted The Huffington Post to say the patient's state during the transport is not accurate as reported, but would not provide further information due to privacy restrictions. However, the hospital did stress that the patient arrived in Poland through a "medical transfer."