The nation’s leading hospitals have been adversely affected by the Trump administration’s travel ban. The executive order preventing any entry into the United States by citizens from seven primarily Muslim countries has caused mass chaos across the world. Patients who have travel visas to come to the United States for treatment are now in jeopardy. This is a life and death situation.
Johns Hopkins, Mayo Clinic, and Cleveland Clinic provide much needed healthcare to patients from around the world, including Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. Patients go through an extensive process to obtain medical visas, so they can come here and get treatment. The current ninety day ban affects approximately eleven patients from Johns Hopkins, nine from Cleveland Clinic, and twenty with Mayo Clinic. If the restriction is extended, many more will be affected.
Johns Hopkins Medicine regularly brings patients to the United States from the Middle East for care, Paulk said. They are usually patients whose difficult cases cannot be fully treated in their native country: neurosurgeries, complex spine surgeries, bone marrow transplants, and the like. The center is working to contact patients and figure out if their care can be postponed.
If not, the center could send Hopkins staff internationally to treat these patients or try to find another health system outside the United States that could care for them.
“It’s always health care they can’t get in their country,” said Paulk, who was attending a medical conference in the United Arab Emirates. “They’re just not able to do the same things we can do in the US. The very difficult cases end up getting referred, and many of them are referred to us.” (STAT)
Patients are understandably afraid to attempt travel to the United States for fear they will be detained, despite having medical visas. These are very sick individuals, and most had planned travel with another adult to assist in caring for them during treatment and recovery. Doctors Without Borders has officially called on the Trump Administration to lift the ban on travel and refugee resettlement.
Cleveland Clinic is also the home of Suha Abushamma, a first year resident in Internal Medicine. She was diverted back to Sudan over the weekend just moments before the courts issued a stay on the Trump Administration’s executive order to bar entry for those with visas. Although she was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, her passport is from Sudan. When she left to visit her family, there was no discussion of the order.
She had planned to be gone for two weeks. Once she found out about it, however, she raced to get back as soon as possible. Unfortunately, she missed by mere hours. Suha was detained along with thirty others at JFK; eventually, those with green cards were allowed to stay. Suha was told she could either surrender her visa and have a permanant black mark on her immigration record, or she could immediately get on a plane back home. She had no choice.
The Cleveland Clinic is working to assist Suha in obtaining an exception to return to the States to continue her residency. Otherwise, she will be unable to return for at least ninety days.
Update, Jan. 29: In a statement released this morning, the Cleveland Clinic did not refer to Abushamma directly but said the recent immigration action “has caused a great deal of uncertainty and has impacted some of our employees who are traveling overseas. We are fully committed and actively working toward the safe return of any of our employees who have been affected by this action.’ The clinic’s CEO, Dr. Toby Cosgrove, was considered by President Donald Trump for Secretary of Veterans Affairs but withdrew from consideration. He is a member of a new panel of 16 business leaders advising Trump on the way in which the government affects economic growth. (ProPub)
This executive action and travel ban has far greater impact than even the biggest skeptics could probably have imagined. In these cases, it is literally life or death for many patients. It is a the end of a career for a young resident. It is authoritarianism at its worst.