Comatose man deported to Mexico; friends, family upset

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Victorio Armento’s friends and family are hoping and praying the father of a U.S.-born daughter will make it through the fight for his life.

“His blood pressure goes up and he moves his hand, so I know that he's listening,” said Armento’s friend, Nancy Flores.

Armento was in a bad car crash with friends Feb. 4.. Friends said the driver of an SUV that Armento was in tried running from police and crashed into an overpass in west Phoenix. The driver and another passenger were killed.

“By what we heard, he wanted to get out of the car," Flores said. "He didn't want that to happen.”

Flores said her friend is suffering from severe brain and leg injuries.

Armento's family said they've pleaded with doctors at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix to keep treating him, but  he was deported to Mexico Thursday afternoon.

According to the family, Armento lived in the United States for 11 years. Friends confirmed Armento was in the country illegally and doesn't have health insurance.

While St. Joseph’s Hospital staff would not comment or confirm Armento's deportation, a hospital representative did send us a statement late Thursday about their policy regarding patient transfers to other countries.

“If an international patient cannot afford long-term care locally and is a resident of another country, then one option for the family is to transfer the patient to the country of origin where health care is available and covered," the statement read.

"In the case of international patients, " the statement continued, "the medical team at St. Joseph’s works with a medical team in the patient’s country of origin to ensure that the patient is ready for transfer and that the hospital or health care facility that will receive the patient is qualified and prepared to meet the patient’s needs. St. Joseph’s also works closely with that country’s government officials, typically consulate representatives, when a patient is in need of a transfer.”

3TV also spoke with a representative from the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association.

“They have the responsibility under that law to treat that patient to the point of which they're stable,” Pete Wertheim explained.

Wertheim said no matter what, federal law requires hospital to care for anyone needing emergency treatment, regardless of their ability to pay or legal status.

“If the patient is no longer in need of the services of the hospital and they are medically stabilized, the hospital is allowed to discharge that patient,” Wertheim said.

Under the law, if a hospital discharges someone who isn't stable, they could face serious fines.

“This is a difficult time for Arizona hospitals, not only with the undocumented problems that we experience but with so many uninsured,” Wertheim said.

Armento's friends say he wasn't in any condition for a flight back to Mexico.

"He's a human," Flores said. "You can't do that to a human."