The American Medical Association (AMA) asked the U.S. State Department to open visa processing for non-U.S. physicians in an effort to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a letter, AMA CEO James L. Madara, MD, asked the Trump administration to ensure these physicians would not be affected negatively due to current travel bans across the world.
“Residents and fellow physicians are an important part of the health care teams serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis,” Madara writes. “The AMA believes that any delay in the commencement of training programs will significantly compromise serving our nation’s most vulnerable patients at hundreds of academic medical centers and safety-net facilities across the U.S.”
The current COVID-19 coronavirus crisis is another blow to physicians, who have been dealing with shortages caused by patient population growth combined with the impending retirement of physicians. As a result, non-U.S. physicians have begun to make up a large portion of practicing physicians, the letter says.
Nearly 21 million Americans live in areas of the U.S. where at least half of all physicians have been foreign trained. In addition, foreign-trained physicians practice in areas of the country where poverty and high rates of chronic disease are common, the letter says.
“During this pandemic it is even more critical that our non-U.S. citizen IMGs have the support they need from the Administration to provide health care to those patients battling COVID-19,” Madara says.