Our Healthcare Workers Need Backup
During this COVID-19 crisis, the men and women in our healthcare system are risking their own health and safety to serve their communities and save lives. However, these heroes have been put under tremendous strain. Nurses and doctors are working longer hours. Retirees are being asked to come back to work. Some healthcare workers themselves have contracted the coronavirus.
Making matters worse, our healthcare workforce was already strained before this crisis began. Recently, it was projected that our country needs as many as 42,900 more doctors and 200,000 more nurses right now. Even after we “flatten the curve,” these shortages will still be with us and will hinder our ability to respond to a future crisis like this.
In Georgia, we are seeing this shortage take shape already. Low enrollment and faculty shortages at U.S. nursing schools, an aging workforce, and our aging population have exacerbated healthcare shortages. The Department of Labor projects that our state will have the 6th-lowest number of nurses per capita in the country by 2030. Right now, we have the 11th-lowest number of active physicians of any state per capita. Over half of Georgia’s 159 counties have been designated as Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas.
This week, I introduced the bipartisan Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act to help solve this problem. This bill eases the pressure on our current medical workforce and saves American lives by giving highly qualified, foreign-born professionals the ability to practice in hospitals and medical centers across the country.
This bill will not increase immigration levels. It will simply “recapture” a limited number of unused work visas from prior years and give them to healthcare professionals already approved to work in our country. It will cut red tape and end bureaucratic backlogs that are currently preventing qualified foreign-born healthcare workers from serving our communities in this moment of crisis.
We already see the incredible contribution that foreign-born healthcare workers have in our country. In fact, 1/6th of our current healthcare workforce is foreign-born. Without them, this crisis would be much worse than it already is.
My bill proposes to bolster our healthcare workforce by clearing the backlogs and ensuring that we have 25,000 more nurses and 15,000 more physicians on hand to fight COVID-19 and keep people safe.
I have long supported a high-skilled, merit-based approach to immigration that grows our economy and protects American jobs. This proposal ensures that these nurses and doctors enhance, rather than replace, our current workforce. Employers are required to attest that the foreign-born healthcare workers they employ will not displace American workers.
Many rural and under-privileged communities have been especially challenged by the COVID-19 crisis. In these areas, hiring foreign-born healthcare workers is often the only way hospitals can fill important positions.
During difficult times like this, our healthcare workers are heroes and their selfless devotion to serve is beyond remarkable. Right now, they need our help as they battle COVID-19. The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act will give healthcare workers the backup they need to save lives and bring our country through this crisis.