Health Care Leaders Call on Administration for Immigration Solutions to Address COVID-19 Pandemic
During a conference call hosted by the National Immigration Forum on Wednesday, Health Care leaders called upon the Trump Administration to take actions to advance immigration solutions that protect essential workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic and to help address health care worker shortages in the U.S.
According to Frank Trinity, Chief Legal Officer, Association of American Medical Colleges,
"We have a shortage of physicians in the U.S. and for decades we have relied on physicians from other countries, especially in medically underserved areas. For this reason, even before the pandemic, we've advocated for an immigration system that is fair, predictable, and efficient. The outcome of the pandemic will depend, in part, on whether the surge in patients outstrips our physician workforce. We see five actions the administration can take right now to insure that physicians and health professionals from other countries can continue their heroic work."
Trinity outlined that the administration should:
1. Approve a blanket extension of visa deadlines for anyone involved in the fight to save lives.
2. Prioritize and expedite processing of visa applications, extensions, changes of status, and the like, including reinstatement of premium processing for physicians in H1-B status.
3. Because visas were approved in a pre-pandemic era, they are typically limited to a particular program or hospital. The administration should now provide flexibility in the visa process, during this emergency, so that they can re-deploy health professionals where they are needed most.
4. Take every possible action to streamline the entry of 4,200 physicians from other countries who are matched to US residency programs so that they can begin residency on July 1.
5. Maintain work authorization for more than 29,000 DACA recipients who are vital members of our healthcare workforce.
He added that "with an unprecedented number of desperately ill patients needing emergency care across the country, now is the time for our government to take every possible option to insure that these highly qualified and courageous health professionals are available in the fight against coronavirus."
Dr. Amit Vashist, Senior Vice President and Chief Clincial Officer, Ballad Health, and Member, Public Policy Committee of the Society of Hospital Medicine, illustrated the following scenario that physicians who are immigrants are facing:
"For example, physicians who are currently on H1-B visas, they are only currently allowed to work at the hospital site that is specified on their visa... no matter which news source you go to, there have been calls for help... they are calling for physicians from out of state to come and help them take care of these patients... there are tens of thousands of immigrant physicians who, if freed from their visa restrictions, could go in there and help these communities at their greatest hour of need."
An audio recording of the full conference with all participants is available.