New York, New Jersey Relax Rules for Physicians with Work Visas to Join the Fight Against COVID-19

New York, New Jersey Relax Rules for Physicians with Work Visas to Join the Fight Against COVID-19

As New York state climbs the steep face of its COVID-19 curve, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order vastly widening the scope of practice for some healthcare providers and absolving physicians of certain risks and responsibilities.

Along with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, both the states’ governors signed executive orders this week waiving licensing requirements or granting temporary licenses to foreign-born and foreign-licensed physicians in training in the U.S., in order to lessen the pressure on the work force currently stretched thin, according to a Times of India report.

The new relaxation of the rules could mean that nearly 1,000 Indian physicians currently on J-1 and H-1B visas could join coronavirus fight.

Med Page Today reports that, the order’s provisions include eliminating physician supervision of physician assistants, nurse practitioners, certified registered nurse anesthetists, and others; enabling foreign medical graduates, such as those of Indian origin, with at least a year of graduate medical education to care for patients; allowing emergency medical services personnel to operate under the orders of NPs, PAs and paramedics; allowing medical students to practice without a clinical affiliation agreement, and lifting 80-hour weekly work limits for residents; granting providers immunity from civil liability for injury or death

Suspending usual record-keeping requirements; allowing several types of healthcare professionals with licenses in other states to practice in New York; and suspending or revoking hospitals’ operating certificates if they don’t halt elective surgeries.

The order, which remains in place through at least April 22, was met mostly with applause, though with some hesitation around work-hour limits, the report said.

Meanwhile, the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin is doing its part to help as well. AAPI announced it has organized national tele-conferences on COVID-19, in collaboration with the Indian Embassy and National Council of Asian Indian Americans.

“While COVID-19 continues to disrupt life around the globe, AAPI is committed to helping its tens of thousands of members across the U.S. and others across the globe,” said AAPI president Dr. Suresh Reddy.

Reddy notes that, as concerned physicians witnessing the growing COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on our society, healthcare system and economy, AAPI has embarked on several initiatives.

The most effective so far, he said, has been offering twice a week conference calls having been attended by over 2,000 physicians from across the United States.

The teleconference on March 27 was unique as it was jointly organized by AAPI, Indian Embassy in Washington, DC, and National Council of Asian Indian Americans, the release said.

Anurag Kumar, Minister of Community Affairs, while praising the numerous efforts of AAPI, especially in this season of pandemic affecting the world, enumerated the many efforts of the Embassy to help Indians, and with particular focus on the nearly 200,000 Indian students in the U.S., the release said.

The teleconference was moderated by Dr. Lokesh Edara, who lauded AAPI’s efforts in providing such a forum to join in and share their expertise with their fellow physicians and thus provide the best care practice to their patients, especially in this season of fastspreading Covid-19 global pandemic, the AAPI release said.

Dr. Prasad Garimella was a main speaker at the conference. The Indian American physician is a critical care medicine specialist in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and has been practicing for 20 years.

He specializes in critical care medicine, pulmonary disease. Garimella gave an overview of the situation in the state of Georgia, and the many challenges his state faces as the pandemic is fast spreading.

“Everyone needs to act like a health care professional and needs to have the best attitude in order to defeat this deadly virus,” he said, according to the news release. “Social distancing is not isolating. Keep in touch with loved ones. Stay busy and stay connected. Filter and assess the news, look for credible sources to rely upon.”

Dr. Arunachalam Einstein was another speaker, who is an emergency medicine specialist in Everett, Washington. He specializes in emergency medicine and internal medicine. Einstein gave an update of case status in his state.

Another main speaker for the day was Dr. Usha Rani Karumudii, an infectious disease specialist in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area, including Easton Hospital and UPMC Passavant.

Kanumudi, in her address, said coronavirus has been there for long. The new virus is called novel because it’s highly infectious and we have high number of people with symptoms.

Another major initiative of AAPI has been the “Donate a Mask” program.

March 30 was National Doctors Day, an annual celebration aimed at appreciating and honoring physicians who help save lives everywhere.

“I want to take this special opportunity to thank our physicians for responding to late-night phone calls, working long hours and providing unswerving care. Today, more than ever, we know the sacrifices they make to put the health of their communities first,” Reddy said in a statement.

“We do acknowledge that these are challenging times, more than ever for us, physicians, who are on the frontline to assess, diagnose and treat people who are affected by this deadly pandemic, COVID-19. Many of our colleagues have sacrificed their lives in order to save those impacted by this pandemic around the world,” he said.

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