Nicaraguan Girl’s Hospital Bill Remains Unpaid
CHICAGO (AP) _ A hospital that treated an 11-year-old Nicaraguan refugee has not received $31,000 in payment despite promises of help from the White House and Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, according to a report published today.
North brought the wounded girl, Maritsa Herrera, to Washington in 1985 to help raise money for Nicaraguan Contras, the Chicago Tribune reported.
She was treated at Children’s Hospital National Medical Center from April to June of that year for a severely infected bullet wound, the newspaper said. The girl also underwent extensive dental surgery and psychotherapy for emotional shock, it said.
The hospital recently turned the bill over to a collection agency.
″It’s our understanding that there was a promise from North and the White House that this would be paid,″ said Doris Indyke, media coordinator at Children’s Hospital.
The Tribune said the promises were made to former Nicaraguan ambassador Alvaro Rizo, who at the time was executive vice president of the Nicaraguan Refugee Fund and the child’s legal guardian.
Rizo told the newspaper that Robert Reilly, then a special White House assistant, called Rizo and told him ″not to worry″ about the hospital bill.
A follow-up call came from one of North’s secretaries, Rizo said. ″She told us to send all the bills, and they would be taken care of,″ he said.
The Nicaraugan Refugee Fund is $80,000 in debt, Rizo said.
″We keep telling Children’s (Hospital) we are sorry, we have no financial means to pay the bill,″ he said. ″We sent all the bills to the White House.″
Reilly, now deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Bern, Switzerland, told the Tribune he had been given the impression the hospital might waive the bill. He also denied telling Rizo the White House would pay it.
Later, Reilly called the Tribune back and said a ″confidential″ arrangement had been worked out between the White House and Children’s several years ago, but that the hospital official involved is no longer employed there.
He said the bills may have been misdirected.