Hospitals across the region are evaluating what an executive order issued by President Donald Trump curtailing immigration from seven countries means for their medical staffs, many of whom are Muslim or other foreign-born permanent residents or citizens.
According to the Journal of American Osteopathic Association, 26 percent of practicing physicians and 24 percent of medical residents in the United States are foreign born, though the percentage from the countries listed in the ban was not available.
The order, issued last Friday, bans immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries, including Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia for 90 days. All refugees are banned for 120 days, and refugees from Syria are banned indefinitely. Syria is embroiled in an ongoing war among moderate rebels, ISIS, the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, Russia, and coalition of nations led by the United States.
Mike Caudill, CEO of Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation in Whitesburg, said he does expect the impact on MCHC to be minimal because of the organization’s efforts to recruit local doctors.
“It’s not going to affect us I don’t believe,” Caudill said. “We work to hire local providers. We’re not 100-percent local, but we’re probably in the 90 percent range.”
Appalachian Regional Hospital, which has 10 hospitals across the region, employs many international medical personnel, some of whom are Muslim. Dr. Wade Baker, chief of staff at the Whitesburg Hospital, said he had not considered it, but “it well could” affect physician recruitment and retention.
“We certainly use people with ‘green cards,’ so it sure could in the future,” he said.
He said he doesn’t know of any doctors currently in the community who come from the seven countries named in the order, but “we have had doctors from Syria in the past.” He said to his knowledge no doctors here had been affected by the rollout of the executive order over the weekend.
At the University of Kentucky in Lexington, where the A.B. Chandler Medical Center serves much of the state with trauma, cancer, cardiac and neonatal services, officials say they are “closely monitoring” the events unfolding across the country. The university is providing support and resources to its students and employees through the university’s International Center. Eli Capilouto, president of the University of Kentucky, said in a statement that the university has students from every state and more than 115 countries, and faculty from all of the world “choose to teach, conduct research, and provide healing here.”
“All are welcome and all belong as we strengthen and sustain a rich, global community on our campus,” Capilouto said. “This is an academic imperative and a moral one. We have made this clear in our UK Governing Regulations.”
Capilouto noted the large number of lawsuits filed over the weekend and orders issued by four federal courts halting enforcement of parts of the executive order, saying the impact and status of the order “remain fluid.” The university’s general counsel is reviewing the order and the lawsuits and court orders.
In the meantime, the university is cautioning students and employees from the seven nations named in the order not to travel abroad until there is a better understanding of the order and its impact, and instructing administrators to make sure all members of the university community know what resources are available to them.
While Capilouto said in his statement that the university will “cooperate with federal officials in accordance with the relevant federal laws,” he also said UK will “continue our unyielding posture of abiding by strong federal constitutional and statutory privacy rights of all members of the university community and recognizing those privacy rights prevent disclosure of records.”
Kristi Lopez, director of public relations for hospital, did not respond to a question of whether the university has received a request for disclosure of records by the government, or if the university would challenge such a request if one were received.
At Baptist Health in Lexington, a popular center for cardiac care, officials are still evaluating what the order will mean.
“We’ve talked with a lot of our folks, but it’s too early to know what the effect will be,” said Brenda Kocher, marketing and public affairs assistant at the hospital.
Jim Wozniak, public relations director at Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport, Tenn., which also receives multiple trauma and cardiac patients from this area, said there is “nothing we can say on the record.”
Online reports are that immigrants from many other countries have also been caught in the net cast by federal enforcement agencies immediately after the order, and some immigrants are concerned they could be detained at airports even though they are not from the countries named in the order. None of the hospitals interviewed could or would say whether any personnel were out of the country when the order took effect.
The uncertainty around the order has left some immigrants fearful, even though they may be permanent residents or naturalized U.S. citizens. Angelina Tidal, who with her now retired physician husband immigrated from the Phillipines in the 1960s, would not comment on the effect the order might have on the medical community, but said she is worried about international trips planned for her family. Mrs. Tidal is Catholic, but her husband is Muslim.
“We are going to Dubai in July, and now I don’t know if we should go,” she said.