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Covid: Crippled by shortage of nurses, US hospitals hire foreign hands
American hospitals are looking abroad for nurses as a dire shortage at home is paralysing medical services in the country. Many are forced to hire travelling nurses at great expense while official recruitment overseas takes too long with cumbersome procedures at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The American Nurses Association has asked the US Department of Health and Human Services to better declare the shortage of nurses a national crisis.

WASHINGTON, Feb 5: A mounting shortage of nurses is stifling healthcare services in the United States overwhelmed by a devastating covid pandemic sweeping the country for the past two years. It has been a sad sight of patients being turned back from overcrowded hospitals or lying unattended on the lawns throughout the country with thousands dying every day for want of nursing especially as covid has no cure.

Over-strained US hospitals facing a dire shortage over time are therefore looking to take the services of foreign nurses in large numbers. According to one report, there is an acute shortage of 40,000 nurses in California alone at present. Other States where nurses are in high demand are Texas, New York, Florida and Pennsylvania.

Nearly 300,000 green cards are available this year, almost double of the annual quota. These are allotted to temporary residents as also to professionals overseas. However, immigration work takes too long with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), hampering emergency recruitments by hospitals.

A survey done in the State of Washington has revealed a shortage of 6,000 nurses. The Washington State Hospital Association said the shortage is critical in over 80 hospitals in the State and many are putting up wanted sign boards.

Nurses mostly from the Philippines, Thailand, Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria and other English-speaking countries are moving in. More than 5,000 international nurses are awaiting final visa approval currently, according to the American Association of International Healthcare Recruitment. The American Nurses Association has asked the US Department of Health and Human Services to better declare the shortage of nurses a national crisis.

Faced with a dire situation, some hospitals resort to hiring travelling nurses paying up to $200 an hour for their services! This has also led to a mushrooming of unscrupulous recruitment agents. Besides, the Medicare system does not allow for higher payments corresponding to the cost of emergency postings.

Mainly the Federal Government-approved Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS), a non-profit organization in Philadelphia, screens and conducts tests for foreign nurses for practice in the United States.

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