Threat to DACA health care workers could thwart America’s pandemic response

Threat to DACA health care workers could thwart America’s pandemic response

Priscilla Chan and Sam Hawgood write:

The health care community has a responsibility to anticipate worst-case scenarios and develop response plans for epidemics that may be years or decades away. It should model how outbreaks might cause shortages in medical supplies and devise protocols to compensate for them. It should plan for what would happen if those protocols fail and shortfalls in staff or equipment make it difficult to provide care to each and every patient.

Crises like Covid-19 are stark reminders of the importance of making such preparations. They also reveal the gaps in our planning, along with scenarios that were so strange or unimaginable that we failed to see them coming.

Who could have foreseen that a once-in-a-century pandemic would strike at a pivotal moment for U.S. immigration policy, one that could strip tens of thousands of health care workers of their ability to practice medicine and take them away from their patients at the very moment they are needed most?

Unimaginable though it may be, that outcome may soon come to pass. In the coming weeks, the Supreme Court will render a decision on Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, a case that will determine whether nearly 700,000 individuals protected by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) will remain in the workforce, protected from deportation.

If the court strikes down DACA, then every DACA recipient — including 29,000 physicians, nurses, health aides, and technicians — could be forced from the United States within two years. Some could have only weeks.

That would thwart America’s pandemic response. The CDC estimated in mid-April that Covid-19 infections had removed 9,300 health care practitioners from the workforce. If DACA is ruled invalid, that number will quadruple. Hospitals would lose essential staff. The medical practitioners who remain would work longer and more dangerous hours. Patients would be likely to suffer worse outcomes. In short, Covid-19 would become more protracted, and potentially even more deadly. [Continue reading…]

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