Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act: What Is It and How Can It Help with Fighting the Pandemic?

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The coronavirus pandemic has revealed which medical supplies U.S. hospitals do not have enough of: ventilators, personal protective equipment, and medical workers. And while it’s easy to manufacture and import the first two, it’s not so easy to come up with new nurses and doctors.

In different states across the country, hospitals are overwhelmed by the number of COVID-19 patients, which reached 1.5 million by mid-May. The sheer number of patients have prompted governors of different states, including New York, Colorado, and Illinois, to call on retired healthcare professionals to come out of retirement and help out.

However, these retired physicians are at an age where their immune systems may not be strong enough to fight COVID-19. They are more likely to get ill, thus adding to the ever-growing number of cases in the country.

To solve the healthcare worker shortage, several senators introduced the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act (HWRA). The bipartisan bill aims to give the healthcare sector a boost by streamlining the processing of immigrant doctors and nurses.

How the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act Help

Senators David Perdue (R-Georgia), Richard Durbin (D-Illinois), Chris Coons (D-Delaware), and Todd Young (R-Indiana) sponsored the HWRA, which would authorize the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to recapture around 40,000 immigrant visas not used between the 1992 and 2020 fiscal years and offer them to qualifying healthcare workers.

According to the senators, thousands of healthcare workers are stuck in their home country because of the huge backlog of green card applications in the U.S. In addition, thousands of immigrant doctors in the country have a temporary work visa. The temporary status limits them in several ways, including not being allowed to take a shift at another hospital that may need doctors desperately.

If the bill passes, it would:

1. Bolster the healthcare workforce

The healthcare worker shortage isn’t a problem that stemmed from the influx of COVID-19 patients; it’s been a problem for a while. With the expedited processing of immigrant visas for healthcare workers, 25,000 skilled doctors and nurses and 15,000 physicians will be able to bolster the country’s healthcare workforce even long after the end of the pandemic.

2. Honor family unity

medical professionals

The bill upholds the dignity of immigrant healthcare workers by allowing their spouses and dependents to come to the U.S. with them. These dependents will not count toward the 40,000 visas reserved for healthcare workers, but their visas will be subtracted from the pool of all recaptured visas.

3. Guarantee that new healthcare workers will not displace current ones

The proposed bill is an answer to the pressing shortage of healthcare workers in the country. Therefore, this will not affect the employment or wages of current American healthcare workers. Would-be employers of the immigrant healthcare workers will have to prove that the staff they hire will not displace an American worker.

4. Relieve the green card backlog

Healthcare workers from overseas who already had their petitions approved but have been stuck waiting for their green cards because of the backlog will be prioritized. This means that this bill will also reduce the number of the overall green card backlog.

While the bill has only been introduced and hasn’t been passed, its benefits are clear. For now, though, there is a pressing need for more healthcare workers, and the HWRA can be one of the solutions to the problem.

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