Two weeks ago, a group of physicians at Massachusetts General wrote an opinion piece in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), denouncing President Trump’s initial immigration ban from seven majority-Muslim countries, and arguing that the U.S. health care system would all but fall apart with such overarching restrictions against immigrants and refugees. The nation relies heavily on foreign-born doctors, who make up 42 percent of office visits in rural America, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. And currently, nearly 3,500 doctors from Syria are working in the U.S., according to Medicus Firm, a physician-staffing service.
While a federal court reversed Trump’s initial ruling, the president has promised to roll out a new, more streamlined executive order imposing travel restrictions on certain foreign-born immigrants. Katrina Armstrong, MD, chair of the department of medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and one of the authors of the opinion piece in NEJM, noted that the potential restrictions have severe short- and long-term consequences for the U.S. health care system.
The short-term effects of any sort of travel ban would mostly fall on patients, trainees and training programs, said Armstrong, noting that MGH cares for many refugees and immigrants who are currently being targeted by Trump’s potential restrictions. “The stress levels in those who do come in now are extremely high, particularly those who were persecuted and suffered trauma in the countries they fled,” she said.
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