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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Georgia's immigration law, lack of state funding causing backlog of doctor, nurse license applications

The controversial immigration law Georgia enacted last year to keep up with all the other states tackling the conservative movement du jour - place your bets on what lawmakers choose this year! - coupled with lack of funding is creating headaches for doctors and nurses in the Peach State.

A provision of the new law requires healthcare workers to prove their citizenship or residency status, regardless of where they were born, when they renew their professional licenses. But thanks to budget cuts ordered after the law was approved, the state doesn't have enough workers to process all the paperwork, causing some licenses to expire. Things are so behind the Medical Board of Georgia is recommending people submit their paperwork three months ahead of their renewal date.

WABE's Jim Burress was first to report the story, which was also picked up by NPR:

[Georgia Composite Medical Board] Director LaSharn Hughes says she sent 41,000 letters of notification out on a recent Thursday. "And by Monday, we'd burned up a fax machine," Hughes said. "We didn't have the staff. We didn't have the equipment."

Phones go unanswered. Paperwork piles up. And processing delays, coupled with confusion over the new rules, mean lots of expired licenses.

Hughes estimates about 1,300 doctors and other medical practitioners have lost their legal ability to work. Some didn't submit the required paperwork. Others are stuck in the backlog of applications that haven't been processed yet.

Donald Palmisano Jr. executive director of the Medical Association of Georgia, says the law fixes a problem that never existed - at least not among doctors. "We're not aware of any undocumented immigrants that are physicians," Palmisano said.

Even D.A. King, Georgia's most vocal anti-illegal immigration advocate, is flummoxed why lawmakers didn't try to fix the legislation. It's a great piece and worth a read and/or listen.

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