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Harvard-Affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital Signs $150,000 Contract with Customs and Border Patrol

Brigham and Women's Hospital
Brigham and Women's Hospital By Madeline R. Lear
By Alexandra A. Chaidez and Aidan F. Ryan, Crimson Staff Writers

United States Customs and Border Patrol entered into a $150,000 contract with Brigham and Women’s Hospital — a major teaching hospital affiliated with Harvard Medical School — on June 17 after the money was first mistakenly allocated to Harvard.

The funds from the contract were allocated to Michael J. VanRooyen, the chief of emergency medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, to consult with CBP about medical service protocols at the southern U.S. border, according to Brigham and Women’s Hospital spokesperson Mark Murphy.

“Michael VanRooyen, MD, MPH is an emergency physician and humanitarian expert with many years of experience in managing health programs in complex humanitarian crises around the world,” Murphy wrote in an emailed statement. “He is consulting with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to enable the children arriving at the border to receive necessary medical services.”

VanRooyen, a Medical School professor, also serves as the director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, a research center that works to understand humanitarian issues as part of global health problems.

The contract was first awarded to the “President and Fellows of Harvard College,” the official title of Harvard University. That allocation, however, was not intentional.

University spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain wrote that the contract was mistakenly awarded to the University in an email Tuesday.

“[T]he contract from CBP was initially awarded in error to the President and Fellows of Harvard College, likely due to the fact that VanRooyen has faculty appointments at both HMS and HSPH. However that error was corrected by CBP, as is documented in the Federal Procurement Database,” Swain wrote.

Customs and Border Patrol has faced criticism in recent months and weeks for reports of “serious” overcrowding, lack of access to showers and clean clothes, and an absence of hot meals over several days for children in detention facilities at the U.S. border with Mexico.

Employees at Wayfair, an online furnishing company based in Boston, recently protested its sale of more than $200,000 of bedroom furniture to a contractor that operates many of the border detention centers.

Sludge — an investigative reporting site — reported on numerous CBP contracts, including those with higher education institutions like Harvard and Columbia, by reviewing data from the Federal Procurement Data System.

Michael McCarthy, a CBP spokesperson, confirmed the error in an email Tuesday. He also noted that the money was instead given to Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“BP entered into a contract with Harvard, but the contract was canceled,” McCarthy wrote. “Harvard wasn’t paid for any work.”

He added that CBP requires a medical professional consult on developing “mandatory guidelines” for CBP agents that detain individuals at the border. He said the protocols’ focus is to “facilitate identification” of children who are sick or injured and require additional assessment from other officials.

“CBP requires the experience of a medical professional who specializes in humanitarian and or pediatric medical triage techniques and processes to create and provide standardized medical screening protocols for assessing individuals apprehended while entering the United States illegally,” McCarthy wrote.

—Staff writer Alexandra A. Chaidez can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @a_achaidez.

—Staff writer Aidan F. Ryan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @AidanRyanNH.

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