JULY 2002
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Accident Victim Complains Of Poor Medical Attention

From El Diario
By Jose Acosta

"Give me water brother. I am dying of thirst and the nurses have not come to give me water."

With these words Manfredo Ocampo greeted his brother Ivan at the Intensive Care Unit of Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, where the Mexican worker was admitted last week after losing his left arm to the knife of an old food-processing machine.

While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) conducts a thorough investigation of the accident, according to Brad Mitchell, the spokesman of OSHA, Ocampo lies in the hospital bed where a surgical operation was performed on his arm, which despite being reconstructed and reimplanted, had to be amputated due to the death of some muscles.

Ivan Ocampo complained yesterday about the poor quality of service that his brother has received in the hospital. According to Ivan, on one occasion the urine pouch was full and Manfredo could not urinate.

"He was writhing in pain and telling me that he could not pee. When I went to tell the nurses to empty the urine pouch, she told me to wait a moment, that she had other patients", he said.

The same thing happened with the oxygen. According to Ivan, one morning he arrived and noticed that the oxygen tank had little water. This worried him because, according to the hospital’s instrructions, the oxygen should enter the body humid.

"My brother was screaming in front of the nurses and told me that he felt the oxygen burning him from the inside. When I complained to the nurses, they told me that I was making too big a deal of the situation and that they were doing their job," explained Ivan. Only after having spoken with a Spanish-speaking African-American doctor—whom he identified as Jim---did the same doctor solve the problem by alerting the nurse who proceeded to change the water.

"After five minutes my brother already felt better, but imagine how he suffered because the problem began at three in the morning and was resolved at six. Jim later tried to calm me and told me that it had probably been a mistake that the water for the oxygen had not been replaced in time," Ivan added.

Peter Schestman, an administrator of Bellevue Hospital, after being informed yesterday said that he would immediately go up to the room of intensive care patients to speak with Manfredo’s family members to inquire about the problems. He promised us, moreover, that if he found any anomaly, "it will be corrected."

Manfredo, twenty-two years old, is the son of Joel Ocampo, the sub director of a federal elementary school in Guerrero, Mexico, and of Sabina Echevarría.

When Manfredo found out that he was going to lose his arm, the first thing that he asked was that his parents not be told until he had finished recuperating.

According to Ivan, his brother told him that he was leaving the freezer when he heard the cabbage-processing machine explode.

"I work right next to this machine and when I was leaving the freezer, I felt the cabbage-processing machine explode; something hit me and I fell. When I looked at my arm, I didn’t have one anymore," Manfredo explained to his brother.

Many Questions

The unhealthy conditions in which a Mexican immigrant died and three others were wounded, trying to earn, with great difficulty, a few dollars processing cabbage with defective machines, have left many questions up in the air with few responses.

In spite of the plague of rats and deplorable hygienic conditions of the manufacturer, located on 329 Broome Street, the company Mak Noodle Group, Inc., does not have precedents of having violated labor or health laws.

According to documents, the company has a domestic license issued in November of 1997 and the address of the central headquarters is 75 Allen Street. The president of Mak Noodle Group, Yiu Kam Lee, did not respond to our calls for a statement.

According to Horacio Navarro, cousin of the fatal victim, the owner of the factory is only concerned that orders are carried out and that production is completed on time to be delivered to the distributors the next day.

Navarro indicated that the cabbage processing machines were not cleaned often, in spite of the constant use they were given in the processing of exorbitant quantities of vegetables. "We had to expose ourselves to the danger because the machine did not have breaks, and I had to stop it with my hands," said Navarro, demonstrating with his hands.

Translated from Spanish by Naomi Lim

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