We can fix the medical crisis

On my travels through Illinois in August, I constantly heard one thing: The shortage of key medical professionals threatens good health and, in some cases, the survival of people in our state.

In the southern suburbs of Chicago, Mayor Rep. Robin Kelly (D) and I said he doesn’t have EMTs to run ambulances. In Chicago, the hospital’s CEO and suburban counterpart told me about the acute shortage of nurses. The CEO of Springfield Hospital is embarking on the creation of 500 regional specialties for nursing education. In southern Illinois, filling vacancies for contract health professionals or mobile employees is bankrupting clinics and hospitals.

Everywhere I’ve moved, the story has been the same: Pandemic exhaustion, retirement, and growing demand are forcing difficult, sometimes life-threatening decisions by critical health care providers.

In the long term, we have to address the need to hire and train a new generation of health care workers. We need to introduce high school students to life-saving opportunities in healthcare by providing internships and shadow visits. We need to make sure that our nursing schools have the funds to pay their college stipends, so that we have enough places for American students. Our medical schools and residencies must also provide sufficient slots for American students.

But that still doesn’t address the healthcare professionals who are leaving in droves today. According to the American Hospital Association (AHA), we are expected to do so lose 500,000 nurses by the end of the year. One in five health care workers have them the left Medicine since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Heart Association recently described the current hospital workforce shortage as a “national emergency.” Likewise, the Association of American Medical Colleges Estimates That the United States could see a shortage of up to 139,000 doctors by 2033. This shortage tends to be It hit rural and medically disadvantaged areas The hardest.

The shortage of health care workers we are facing is very serious. But there are solutions within our reach.

A few years ago, I heard the story of Dr. Ram Sanjeev Alor, an internist and hospital physician at Marion Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Marion, Illinois, who is an immigrant, and Dr. Alor has served the Marion community for 11 years. Unfortunately, Dr. Allure is one of thousands of doctors stuck in the decades-long waiting list for immigrant visas, also known as the green card backlog. He has been forced to renew his temporary visa four times since he began working for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Dr. Allure told me, “The pandemic has shaken our family. Being a temporary worker on a visa has not stared us any further. This lack of protection is the nightmare of all frontline migrant doctors.” Dr. Allure realized that if he died or became disabled due to COVID-19, his family would lose their right to live in the United States and face deportation. Enabling immigrant physicians like Dr. Allure to remain in America, and motivating them to provide care in medically disadvantaged communities, will be a lifeline that can help us through this crisis in the short term.

The debate about immigration reform is not foreign to me. As the lead author of The Dream Law, I have been pushing for years for a comprehensive, bipartisan reform to fix the crippled immigration system. But while broader immigration talks continue in the Senate, we have a unique opportunity to address our health workforce crisis through targeted reforms backed by senators across the political spectrum.

First, we can pass Health Care Workforce Flexibility Actbipartisan legislation aimed narrowly at strengthening the healthcare workforce and responding to workforce shortages exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.

This law will allow thousands of qualified and certified immigrant nurses and doctors to obtain their green cards immediately. Many physicians are serving our communities in a temporary situation due to the lack of available visas, severely limiting their ability to address our workforce shortage. The bill allows the Department of Homeland Security to restore green cards that were not used in the past, and allocates up to 25,000 immigrant visas for nurses and up to 15,000 immigrant visas for doctors.

Another bipartisan bill is Conrad State 30 and the Physician Access Reauthorization ActAnd the Panel prepared by fellow Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jackie Rosen (D-Neff), and Jonny Earnest (R-Iowa). This bill expands and endorses the Conrad 30 Waiver Program. This program waives the requirement that international physicians entering the United States on J-1 visas to receive medical training must leave the country upon completion of their training. Most importantly, waivers are granted to physicians who practice in underserved areas.

Allowing immigrants to fill these necessary positions should be the solution to which we all return. With rural hospitals closing their doors, our voters travel miles to get care. If we had the qualified people to fill these jobs and provide care, why would we hesitate? People’s lives are at stake.

On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship and Border Safety Hold a hearing on this crisis. We examined the national shortage of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals and how reducing barriers to qualified immigrants can help address these workforce gaps. We heard first-hand from Dr. Allure about his struggles navigating a crippled immigration system, all while trying to save the lives of a Southern Illinois veteran.

I hope my colleagues will listen carefully to his story. With the growing demand for healthcare professionals, we have an opportunity to fill these roles with thousands of immigrant nurses and doctors ready to serve.

Durbin is the Senate majority whip.

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