New York Times Examines Bill That Would Remove Immigration Caps on Foreign Nurses
The New York Times on Wednesday examined a "little-noticed" provision that would remove the cap on the number of special visas granted to foreign nurses in a Senate immigration bill (S 2611) that is expected to pass this week. The proposal could jeopardize efforts to control the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria worldwide by attracting more health workers to the U.S. from developing countries where they already are in short supply, according to Holly Burkhalter of Physicians for Human Rights. "We're pouring water in a bucket with a hole in it, and we drilled the hole," Burkhalter said (Dugger, New York Times, 5/24). According to the World Health Organization's World Health Report 2006 released last month, a shortage of more than four million health care workers in 57 developing countries -- most of them in Africa -- is affecting efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The report also says that sub-Saharan Africa, which has 24% of the global disease burden, has only 3% of the health care workforce worldwide and accounts for less than 1% of global health care. In the U.S., there are 937 nurses for every 100,000 residents, compared with 114 nurses in Kenya and 21 in Ethiopia, according to the report (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/20). Sen. Sam Brownback (R), who sponsored the proposal and has supported global HIV/AIDS and malaria control efforts, said the bill is not likely to worsen the shortage of health care workers in Africa because the continent lacks the infrastructure of companies that recruit nurses for the U.S. and because there is no large community for African nurses to tap into. The bill, if passed, is likely to affect countries that already are sending large numbers of nurses to the U.S., including the Philippines and India, according to the Times (New York Times, 5/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.