by Dan Diamond | 01/30/2017 10:01 AM EDT
The White House’s order to ban citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, and the haphazard way it was implemented across the weekend, has spooked health care leaders and patient advocates. Their big fear: The order will disrupt care and hurt U.S. recruitment of foreign workers.
On Saturday alone, a Cleveland Clinic physician was forced to return to Saudi Arabia, just minutes before a judge blocked President Donald Trump’s order. A Brigham and Women’s Hospital researcher was barred from flying from Iran to the United States.
The order also was applied to green card holders – perhaps incorrectly – which meant at least a half-dozen elderly U.S. residents with medical conditions were detained for hours, sometimes without their medication, as they underwent “extreme vetting” after international travel.
– Associations are worried. They say Trump’s order sends the wrong signal in an increasingly globalized world, where U.S. health care organizations draw more and more patients and providers from overseas and look to establish new footholds in the Middle East. Cleveland Clinic, for instance, has opened a campus in Abu Dhabi.
“There is a palpable alarm among our members that many more physicians and medical students will be trapped in similar circumstances if the EO is not permanently rescinded, blocked by the courts or reversed by Congress,” Bob Doherty of the American College of Physicians told PULSE. “It will also hinder the free exchange of information and travel among doctors around the world.”
– Why health care’s especially vulnerable. Immigration fuels the U.S. health care workforce, researchers point out, and Trump’s order may spook would-be emigrants from seeking opportunities in the United States.
More than 2 million health care workers – including more than 200,000 nurses – are foreign-born. A quarter of practicing physicians are graduates of foreign medical schools, Atul Grover of the Association of American Medical Colleges tells PULSE, and 17 percent of trainees right now are from foreign countries.
“The strength and diversity of our global relationships are to our domestic advantage,” said Prabhjot Singh, who leads Mount Sinai’s Arnold Institute for Global Health. “We must reverse the harm that is being done to them.”
– How the order could affect patients. AAMC, which has repeatedly warned of a U.S. doctor shortage, has identified 260 current applicants to residency programs from the seven countries alone.
Given that the average physician sees a panel of about 3,000 patients, AAMC’s Grover notes that about three-quarters of a million patients could lose out on access to a doctor if those 260 applicants aren’t allowed to matriculate to the United States.
The White House did not respond to requests for comment on how the order would affect these and other health care workers.
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