According to a report in the New York Times, the spike in coronavirus cases across the country has exposed the struggles of the U.S. healthcare system, particularly in Mississippi. Not only is Mississippi short on hospital beds for patients, but the shortage of physicians and other healthcare workers in this state is particularly severe. Mississippi has fewer active physicians per capita than any other. Within the past decade, five rural hospitals have closed and 35 more are in imminent risk of closing. Since the beginning of the year Mississippi has lost 2,000 nurses across the state, according to the state hospital association.
The absence of health care workers is so intense in rural areas that in 2019, legislators considered exempting doctors from paying income taxes for 10 years if they agreed to work in underserved communities. Even before the pandemic, it has been well documented that the supply of physicians in the United Sates is not adequate to meet the country’s health care needs. The unprecedented and tragic results of the pandemic have highlighted healthcare access issues and have brought the need for a larger health care workforce to the forefront of the nation’s attention.
International Medical Graduates (IMGs) currently account for more than a quarter of the practicing physician workforce. Covid-19 has increased the barriers that IMGs must overcome in order to be able to work in the U.S. These immigrant medical professionals would help carry the burden of the healthcare system at Covid-19 hotspots and underserved areas around the U.S. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) should grant automatic extensions of work authorizations to allow immigrant health care professionals to continue working during this global pandemic. USCIS can also waive the restrictions of where the IMG can work both geographically and employer based. This would allow IMGs to work where they are most needed without having to submit extensive paperwork. There are many more options that both the state and federal government can do to expedite the visa process and lift restrictions to ease the burden of doctor shortages in the U.S. Removing immigration barriers is a sensible and viable option to help U.S. citizens, doctors, hospitals, and the community as a whole.
View the original report from the New York Times here.
View more information on removing immigration barriers for medical professionals here.
This blog post does not serve as legal advice and does not establish any client-attorney privilege. Do not take any action based on the information contained in this post without consulting a qualified immigration attorney. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our legal team directly.
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