Cancer Patients Allegedly Denied Care by Hospital

( – Several patients sick with cancer claim that a Las Cruces, New Mexico hospital is denying them treatment unless they pay for the treatment upfront.

Memorial Medical Center, formerly a nonprofit hospital owned by the county and the city, has been a for-profit hospital since being bought by a for-profit chain of hospitals operated by the company Lifepoint Health.

One of the patients, Barbara Quarrell, used to work at Memorial. As a nurse, she cared for the healing and the dying, but she says the hospital where she worked and sought treatment is not the same place it used to be. Quarrell received a diagnosis of cancer in 2022. She said she headed straight for her old employer, because “my people are there.” Quarrell claims that when she was scheduled to start chemotherapy, Memorial inquired about her health insurance status. She told them she was covered by an $800-a-month plan called True Health New Mexico.

For reasons that are not clear, Quarrell said Memorial denied her care, which is reflected in the doctor’s notes she provided to reporters. Quarrell and her husband ended up quitting their jobs and moving more than 200 miles away to find a hospital that would take her insurance and treat her cancer.

At least 11 additional cancer patients, along with seven doctors and nurses who either worked at or still work at Memorial, claim the hospital denied treatment to them and others. They say patients are either refused care outright if they don’t pay for treatment upfront, or they are denied care altogether. The next nearest cancer treatment center in New Mexico is a four-hour drive from Memorial.

Exactly what may be going on is disputed. Media reports indicate that the hospital is on land owned by Dona An and Las Cruces counties, and the lease between the hospital and the municipalities requires Memorial to provide treatment even to those who don’t have insurance and cannot pay full price. In addition, New Mexico law requires hospitals to accept “indigent” patients.

While the hospital’s written policies show that it has a policy to give care to indigent patients who meet certain income thresholds, cancer was removed from the kinds of treatments covered under that policy in 2023. Memorial still gives emergency room care to all, as federal law requires hospitals to do so regardless of ability to pay.

Memorial Medical Center claims it does not deny patients care, but two high-placed administrative staff called two of the complaining patients to apologize.

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