“If you send someone from the canal to Tijuana General, they wait to be seen forever— it’s like Stations of the Cross.”
- On July 2, 2015
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Abscesses typically develop in the arms and legs, but many longtime heroin users blow out veins in their limbs and have to resort to injecting into their necks. Aside from wound cleaning, medical care at the canal clinic was largely limited to rehydration solutions to treat diarrhea.
González grew up in Tijuana and lives close to the canal. She said many people she treated avoided nearby Tijuana General Hospital, where she once worked. “If you send someone from the canal to Tijuana General, they wait to be seen forever—it’s like Stations of the Cross.” Many also were afraid of the doctors. “They say if they go there, they will not take care of them, or they will cut off their legs or their arms. It’s the wrong perception, but that’s a barrier, and we need to work with them to start trusting doctors again.”
Of the 388 new HIV patients treated at Tijuana General Hospital in 2013, 82 died. All but three were first seen in the emergency room. “A lot of people criticize Tijuana General,” said Samuel Navarro, the hospital’s chief epidemiologist and head of its HIV/AIDS clinic. Many people failed to understand the challenges the hospital faced, he said. “Patients come to us very sick. The big issue is late diagnosis.”