Hundreds of Foreign National Doctors Prevented From Re-Entering Country During Pandemic

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Hundreds of Foreign National Doctors Prevented From Re-Entering Country During Pandemic
Committee of Interns & Residents Expresses Concern Over Visa Delays Amid Record-Breaking Case Surge

Long Island, NY – As coronavirus cases continue to surge in record-breaking numbers across the United States, hospitals around the nation are straining under the dramatic influx of patients. Exacerbating this significant stress on healthcare professionals nationwide is the uncertain arrival dates of  foreign-national medical interns and fellows who effectively became stuck in their home countries as of July 1st.

The Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR-SEIU) expresses concern for its members, and the countless other foreign-national doctors, who are unable to enter the United States to begin residency and fellowship programs beginning July 1st due to recent Federal immigration policy under the President’s new Executive Order.

By refusing to clarify America’s immigration policy surrounding visa exceptions for healthcare workers, the White House has dangerously limited the number of doctors courageously fighting COVID-19 when the country needs them most. Amid skyrocketing case rates, America’s hospitals are in desperate need of additional hands to share the burden carried by  their medical staff.

In New York, which was hit hardest early on and remains vulnerable to increasing cases as reopening continues, many incoming residency classes included  large numbers of foreign-national doctors. While New York has one of the highest concentrations of foreign national medical graduates, this dire situation is not unique; dozens of hospitals nationwide are facing similar scenarios with lingering uncertainty on when their colleagues will be allowed in.

Burnout among American doctors was already a significant issue prior to the pandemic. With our doctors and other healthcare professionals on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19, burnout has gone from a possibility to strong likelihood.

The devastation of coronavirus on American hospitals during its first surge was horrific, and the consequences of another surge as hundreds of doctors wait for visas indefinitely are looming before us. While part of the issue lies within COVID conditions in their home countries, the United States government must provide clear guidance for consulates to alleviate the situation before it becomes untenable. 

The Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR) is the largest housestaff union in the United States, a local of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), representing over 17,000 interns, resident physicians and fellows. Our members are dedicated to improving residency training and education, advancing patient care, and expanding healthcare access for our communities.