Like almost every country in the world, the United States of America was also strongly hit by the Covid-19, leaving more than 0.57 million US people dead. The pandemic erupted in the country in January 2020 and has affected about 32.3 million people so far. During this traumatic period of almost more than 12 months, 3,600 health workers lost their lives while battling against the Covid-19.
Immigrant Doctors against Covid-19
Immigrant health workers build more than 17% of the total healthcare professionals in the US. They have been on the front lines in the US’ fight against the pandemic. These immigrant health workers were joined by physicians who weren’t born in the US, and they build almost 29% of total physicians in the country.
Besides them, 32% of total physicians in the US are international medical graduates (IMGs), who got their medical education from schools outside the US. These IMGs – majorly coming from countries including Pakistan, China, India, South Korea, and the Philippines – have been playing a key role in delivering healthcare services in the US for decades.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, immigrant physicians including the foreign-graduated unlicensed healthcare workers were employed to help contain the spread of the virus and to care for Covid-19 patients, as the US was facing an acute shortage of healthcare professionals because of the surging nationwide.
For instance, in April 2020, when Covid-19 was at full spin across the US,New Jersey Governor, Mr. Phil Murphy, sanctioned an executive order to issue temporary licenses to foreign-trained healthcare workers. This executive order made it compulsory for immigrant healthcare workers to put their lives on the line and help fight the Covid-19.
Keeping in view the intensity and destruction caused by the Covid-19, many health practitioners showed reluctance to join nursing homes in the US, as they were afraid of catching the coronavirus themselves. However, immigrant clinicians didn’t shy away and jumped in after getting temporary licenses and tested people and healthcare professionals for the Covid-19.
They weren’t oblivious of how deadly the Covid-19 was, especially in the hospitals and nursing homes. Resultantly, more than a third of 3,600 healthcare workers, who succumbed to the Covid-19 in the US, were immigrants.
What did immigrant physicians get in return?
The immigrant healthcare workers on visas, who are still fighting the COVID-19 from the front line, are left helpless by the US as they can’t even safeguard their loved ones from the health hazards due to their ineligibility for Social Security benefits or Medicaid.
One can get an idea about the cruel and unjust treatment meted out to the immigrant doctors at the hands of the US government that if an immigrant physician, living in the US on an employer-based visa sponsorship, gets ill while fighting the Covid-19, the state will give them no benefits at all to fall back on.
The state doesn’t care that these immigrant physicians, who put their lives, and the lives of their loved ones at stake, contribute to the national economy by paying taxes just like the US citizens. The law doesn’t allow them and their families to stay in the US legally if their employment or health is jeopardized.
For example, after the expiry of the Governor’s executive order in New Jersey in February 2021, all the immigrant physicians were deprived of the ability and right to work as qualified physicians. They were abandoned just like a used tissue paper, and are now facing unemployment or doing low-paying jobs. Currently, there are more than 65,000 unlicensed IMGs in the US, who aren’t issued licenses even after proving themselves in the fight against Covid-19. Does this prove that a medical license in the US is nothing but a business to mint money from foreign-qualified professionals?