Ten Cuban refugees from two government holding camps have been admitted to St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington for treatment of what officials termed "serious mental illness."
Eight of the Cubans came from Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa., where rioting broke out last Tuesday, and two came from other camps around the country.
Hospital officials said yesterday that two of the young male Cubans are being held in the forensic unit because they are believed to be dangerous. The remaining eight are in limited security wards.
The 10 Cubans are among 200 of the 17,000 refugees remaining in camps, who federal officials say require hospitalization for mental illnesses.
The Cubans admitted to St. Elizabeths Tuesday night and over the past week had been receiving treatment in the camps or at state and local mental health facilities. Maj. Robert Flocke, an army spokesman at Fort Indiantown Gap, said yesterday that the patients from that camp had been receiving outpatient care.
"It's possible that when they got here, they weren't serious cases," Flocke said.
The Cubans were transferred to St. Elizabeths, which is run by the federal government, because state and local institutions no longer want responsibility for the refugees, said Merlin Brubaker, a Public Health Service official.
"They have been identified as needing hospitalization for some time," Brubaker said. "The problem has been the availability of services and the appropriateness of the federal government paying for it."
It costs $142.60 a day to keep a patient at St. Elizabeths, compared with $12 a day for refugees held in the camps.
Since the Cubans have not been officially classified as refugees, federal authorities are still uncertain whether the federal government is responsible for their medical care.
St. Elizabeths is accepting the Cubans at a time when the hospital is fighting to regain accreditation, which was lost because of overcrowding.
The Cubans from Fort Indiantown Gap were transferred as part of a stepped-up federal effort to classify refugees in the camp after last week's violence. State Department officials attributed the trouble to the Cubans' frustration over being detained for almost three months.
Camp officials and many Cuban refugees blamed a small element of "antisocials' for the violence. They complained that not enough was being done to separate mentally ill persons and criminal elements from the rest of the 5,000 refugees in the camp.