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Doctors: Border wall is creating public health crisis

 November 30, 2023 at 5:00 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Thursday, November 30th.


More migrants are ending up in the hospital after falling from the border wall. Why local physicians are calling it a public health crisis, next. But first... let’s do the headlines….


The number of Pertussis, or whooping cough cases are rising in the county.. from 12 in September, to 57 last month.

Health officials say kids make up the majority of cases.

Children can’t get vaccinated until they’re a few months old, so the youngest are at the highest risk.

Dr. Edmund Milder with Rady Children’s Hospital says whooping cough can be hard to identify at first because it starts out like a common cold.

“And then can become dramatic and that’s where the name whooping cough comes from is you get these stretches of coughing and you cough so many times in a row that you’ve lost your breath, people often turn colors and they take this big deep breath in to try and catch up and that’s the whoop noise that you would classically hear.”

Rady’s has also seen an increase in kids testing positive for whooping cough, and one child who tested positive is in intensive care.


The SD-SU football team officially has a new head coach.

Sean Lewis was officially introduced as the Aztecs' new coach, yesterday.

He’s taking over the position vacated by Brady Hoke.

Lewis has some work ahead of him.

The Aztecs are coming off a disappointing season, with just four wins.

But Lewis seems optimistic.

"I'm looking forward to bringing that excitement, that brand of football while we’re lighting up that score board, when we’re playing fast."

Lewis was most recently part of the coaching staff at Colorado.

He will be the 19th head coach in the history of the Aztecs' football program.


It’s expected to rain in most parts of the county today.

That’s according to the National Weather Service

It is also expected to feel cooler today.

Temperatures in the inland and coastal areas will be in the low 60s, in the county’s deserts, temps will be in the high 60s, and in the mountains, it’ll be in the low 40s.


From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now.Stay with me for more of the local news you need.


We’re approaching the end of another year and another record for injuries due to falls from the border wall.

And with the wall nearly twice as tall as it used to be, the injuries keep getting worse.

Border reporter Gustavo Solis talked to doctors who say the wall is creating a public health crisis.

When Doctor Alexander Tenorio began his residency program at UC San Diego Health, he didn’t expect to see a lot of migrants and asylum seekers. After all, he specializes in brain surgery. But then he covered a couple of shifts in the trauma unit. Alexander Tenorio, Resident UC San Diego Health “And I just started noticing all these brain and spinal cord injuries from migrants coming in. And the reason it stuck with me is because my parents are immigrants, they crossed the same border, so it was very personal to me. So I started just looking into it.” These patients had something else in common … all of them had fallen from the San Diego section of the border wall. Tenorio saw broken backs, collapsed lungs and severe brain trauma “They’re now becoming like high-energy automobile accidents. We typically don’t see these injuries from just simple falls. Once you get above 10 feet that’s when you start to see these injuries that look like high-energy car accidents.” UC San Diego Health is on pace to receive more than 360 border wall-related hospital admissions in 2023 – a new record. In fact, the hospital has seen a record number of border patients every year since 2019 – that’s when the Trump administration increased the border wall height from 17 feet to 30 feet. And numbers just keep going up. Doctor Jay Doucet, UC San Diego Health “So in 2018 only less than a dozen patients falling off the wall with serious injuries. Now it’s 340 plus a year or at least two a day.” Doctor Jay Doucet is head of the trauma unit at UC San Diego Medical Health Center in Hillcrest. He’s been on the front lines of this epidemic since the beginning.“Before we might see a foot fracture or leg fracture. Now we are seeing everything. Severe brain injuries, across chests, pelvic fractures.” The records also show that more women are being hospitalized from border falls. In 2019, less than a quarter of admissions were women. So far in 2023, almost half of the fall patients have been women, including more than 20 who were pregnant. This impacts the entire hospital system. Median cost per patient is almost $300,000. The vast majority of those costs are paid for by taxpayers – mainly through the state’s Medi-Cal system. These cases also require highly trained specialists who are already overburdened with patients. Doucet says people needing spinal surgery are particularly impacted. “There are very few spine surgeons available in San Diego. And the waiting time for all patients, not just border fall patients, but for anybody in San Diego who has a spine fracture. They are now waiting twice as long as the national average to get their fractures fixed.” Both doctors Tenorio and Doucet have been sounding the alarm. Trying to get people in positions of power to recognize this as a public health crisis. Tenorio was even an expert witness for Congress at a Homeland Security Committee hearing in July.. “Ultimately, these raised border walls have resulted in a record number of traumatic injuries increased severity and mortality and increased economic burden to our hospital systems.” Doucet has spoken with elected officials at all levels of government. “They’re all very concerned but unfortunately nobody seems to have any answers to it.” He says today’s political climate plays a significant role. “It’s obvious when talking to representatives, it’s a radioactive issue. Nobody wants to talk about the wall. The increase in injuries has occurred through two different administrations and neither of them want to talk about this.” Both doctors plan to continue researching the issue and advocating for solutions. They’re already collaborating with trauma doctors in Texas and Arizona to get an idea of how widespread this problem is. Gustavo Solis, KPBS News.


A deadly section of West Point Loma Boulevard in San Diego was due to get a protected bike lane this year.

But bike advocates say those plans fell apart because of state regulators.

Here’s Metro reporter Andrew Bowen.

SV: People here want to be able to walk and bike, to be able to safely cross the street. AB: I meet Stephan Vance on West Point Loma Boulevard. Years ago, he, some neighbors and city officials all agreed this street needed protected bike lanes. The problem? The street falls under the jurisdiction of the California Coastal Commission. They wanted the city to analyze the traffic impacts and amend their local coastal program. Vance says that's putting bureaucracy ahead of common sense. SV: Let's be reasonable about what we do to preserve coastal access, and at the same time protect the safety of people traveling regardless of how they're going about town. AB: Kate Huckelbridge, executive director of the Coastal Commission, blamed city officials for not acting sooner. KH: Of course the commission supports bike lanes. We met with the city over a year ago, and offered multiple options to move forward with this and other bike lane projects in the city, but they didn’t follow through. Regardless, we remain committed to working with the city to get it approved quickly and consistent with the law. AB: The city recently repaved the street without adding bike lanes. Just one month ago, a woman was struck from behind while biking on West Point Loma Boulevard right where the bike lanes would have been installed. She was hospitalized, but survived. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news.


A player on the girls softball team at Del Norte High School in Poway, and her family - have filed a lawsuit against Poway Schools superintendent Marian Phelps.

Reporter John Carroll says the case centers on an alleged slight at an awards banquet.

The daughter of poway schools superintendent marian phelps won most valuable player at the - banquet in may.  the plaintiff, referred to as jane doe, says phelps texted her later that evening and also called her… doe says phelps was upset that her daughter didn’t receive enough applause.  an investigation into doe followed, which resulted in her losing all her extracurricular privileges, including playing softball.  her attorney, justin reden, says it was a brutal summer for his client. “this has been very traumatic for my client for the last six months.  it’s a daily emotional toll on her.” the district and phelps did not respond to our request for comment, but previously phelps told our media partner 10 news that she’s done nothing wrong.  reden says she should resign or the board should fire her.  a trial date for the suit hasn’t been set.  jc, kpbs news.


The San Diego Humane Society is trying to learn who abandoned two horses last week in the Tijuana River Valley Regional Park.

Reporter Jacob Aere says one of the animals didn’t survive.

The horses were abandoned … just days apart … at a staging area corral in the Tijuana River Valley Regional Park. Humane Law Enforcement’s Regina Price says both horses were in poor condition and taken to San Diego Humane Society’s Escondido Campus for immediate treatment. “Both times the horses had no food or water. So had a member of the public not seen them, the animals could have succumbed to dehydration and starvation.” … while the first horse is recovering well, the second horse had to be euthanized due to its severe pain. For people who need to rehome any animal – Price says reach out to their organization for help. Anyone with information about the abandonment of the two horses is asked to call San Diego Humane Society’s Humane Law Enforcement. Jacob Aere, KPBS News.


Coming up.... A local dietician talks about how we can eat healthier.

“We need to actually put a little bit more intention and effort and energy into the foods we select, how we prepare those foods and even how we eat those foods.”

We’ll have more on how our food culture has changed over the years, just after the break.


According to the C-D-C, the prevalence of obesity has increased over the past two decades.

Sharp Rees-Steely Director of Obesity Medicine says that one reason for this increase is our food environment.

Food is more accessible today than in the past.

You can find it at any time of the day and night.

But that doesn’t make it healthier.

Traci Roberts is a clinical dietician with UC-SD Health.

She joined my colleague Jade Hindmon to talk more about food and our relationship with it.

She also shared tips on how we can make eating healthier a priority.

Here’s that conversation.

As a dietician- how would you like to see our food culture change?

What are the biggest barriers you see preventing us from eating better, more healthful food?

How have the reasons why we eat changed over the years?

And you say the issue of eating healthy is really not about education…. Tell us about that…

And with so many factors and things sort of competing for our time, how can we prepare healthier foods and be more conscious about what we purchase, prepare and eat when we feel like we don’t have time?

TAG: That was UC-SD Health clinical dietician Traci Roberts, speaking with KPBS Midday Edition host, Jade Hindmon.


That’s it for the podcast today. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. Join us again tomorrow for the day’s top stories, plus, a special guest joins me to fill us in on what we need to know about this year’s December Nights in Balboa Park. I’m Debbie Cruz. Thanks for listening and have a great Thursday.

We’re approaching the end of another year and another record for injuries due to falls from the border wall. Local doctors say the wall is creating a public health crisis. In other news, a player on the girls softball team at Del Norte High School in Poway and her family have filed a lawsuit against Poway Unified’s superintendent. Plus, a dietician from UCSD Health tells us how we can eat healthier.