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Old 10-21-2007, 10:40 PM
Location: Santa Monica
4,708 posts, read 7,920,676 times
Reputation: 1031


Las Vegas Sun Politics: Sweeping changes in works to curb abuse of foreign doctor program (http://politics.lasvegassun.com/2007/10/sweeping-change.html - broken link)

The foreign physicians are working in Nevada through the J-1 visa waiver program, which includes the Conrad State 30 program — created by Conrad to supply doctors to medically needy regions of the country. The programs, which are overseen at the federal and state level, allow foreign medical school graduates — nicknamed “J-1 doctors” for the visas they hold when they come to the United States for their residency — to stay in the country as long as they commit to practice full time, for at least three years, in areas the government has designated as having too few doctors.

The Sun reported claims that at least four employers — Dr. Nutan Parikh, Dr. Rachakonda D. Prabhu, Dr. Abdul Siddiqui and Dr. Sherif Abdou — have been ordering their physicians away from the underserved areas to treat more affluent patients in hospitals and other clinics. The four employers are also accused of working the J-1 doctors to the point of exhaustion, which can be harmful to patients. Siddiqui’s J-1 doctors also claim he modified their contracts against their will, resulting in months without a salary.

Employers can exploit the physicians and abuse the system because they also sponsor visas for the J-1 doctors, who are reluctant to complain for fear of being fired and forced to leave the country.

The Sun’s report was published Sunday and response from state and federal lawmakers has been swift. Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, put the subject on the agenda of the Health Care Committee, which starts meeting this month, and Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said the state must proactively audit the clinics.

Dr. Ikram Khan, a retired surgeon who sits on a state committee that reviews agreements between J-1 doctors and employers, has been trying to reform the system. He said he was encouraged to hear that Congress and the state are taking action to investigate the problems.

“This is the first time it has come to light,” Khan said. “Having said that, let’s give them a chance to find solutions.”

Ultimately, he added, the “buck stops at the federal level” and the states can follow through. One of the most important reforms is to provide federal money to states so they can oversee the program, he said.

The J-1 visa waiver program is overseen by multiple agencies, including the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Department, the U.S. Labor Department and the Nevada Health Division. Republican Rep. Jon Porter said any agency involved in the program has the responsibility to get involved.
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