Las Vegas Sun

July 24, 2014

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Indentured Doctors

When Dr. Beatriz Ang-Ermocilla finishes her three-year term at Nevada Health Centers clinic in Beatty, Nev., there may be no physician to replace her. Dr. Ang-Ermocilla works in the United States through the J-1 visa waiver program, which allows foreign physicians to gain legal U.S. residency if they agree to work 40 hours a week for at least three years in underserved areas. She is originally from the Philippines and will move to a Nevada Health Center facility in the Las Vegas Valley in early 2008.

Photo by Leila Navidi / Las Vegas Sun

When Dr. Beatriz Ang-Ermocilla finishes her three-year term at Nevada Health Centers clinic in Beatty, Nev., there may be no physician to replace her. Dr. Ang-Ermocilla works in the United States through the J-1 visa waiver program, which allows foreign physicians to gain legal U.S. residency if they agree to work 40 hours a week for at least three years in underserved areas. She is originally from the Philippines and will move to a Nevada Health Center facility in the Las Vegas Valley in early 2008.

Across the United States, foreign doctors are being worked to exhaustion, cheated out of wages, coerced into unfair contracts and diverted away from the medically needy patients they're supposed to serve. Their bosses can bully them because they sponsor their visas.

The foreign doctors come to America for their medical residencies and are allowed to stay as long as they work full-time for at least three years in blighted cities and rural towns where there's a shortage of physicians. When they finish their term they're allowed to begin the process of becoming legal residents.

The program, which was created by Congress, is supposed to be good for everyone -- patients get care, America gets doctors and foreign physicians can fulfill their dreams of citizenship. But it's being undermined -- and, with little government oversight no one seems to care. The foreign doctors say the abuses by employers have gone on for so many years, with so little enforcement by government agencies, that they are avoiding the program and finding less abusive paths to residency.

See the first story in the series, or an update from December.

— Las Vegas Sun reporter Marshall Allen

Archive highlights

Indentured Doctors

Sun, Sep 30, 2007

The sign at the clinic says "walk-ins welcome," but a sick person would have had a hard time finding a doctor here.It's a weekday at the Health Care Center of ...

Doctors exploited; patients suffer, too

Sun, Dec 23, 2007

Foreign doctors who are being exploited by their employers find solace and advice in online forums. Here are some of their comments from September 2006, posted at boards.immigrationportal.com.

State knew of abuses, did almost nothing

Mon, Aug 4, 2008

State officials have said for more than a year that they were unaware of complaints from foreign physicians that their bosses — most of them prominent immigrant doctors in Las ...

All stories

State: Please probe our J-1 system

Fri, Nov 7, 2008

State health officials announced Thursday that they have filed official complaints with federal and state agencies alleging that employers exploited foreign doctors and the laws that allow them to work ...

Physicians inform state of mistreatment in survey

Thu, Nov 6, 2008

Five foreign doctors working in Nevada have complained to state health officials that their employers have breached contracts, threatened them with deportation and asked them to perform duties that could ...

Physician under fire gets 2nd chance

Wed, Sep 10, 2008

A State Health Division committee created to correct abuses in a program that brings foreign doctors to medically needy communities on Tuesday effectively endorsed the employer who critics allege is ...

Foreign physicians back boss — to a point

Sat, Aug 30, 2008

Dr. Rachakonda Prabhu, one of Nevada’s most politically connected physicians, is struggling to clear his name in the alleged abuse of a government program to employ foreign physicians in medically ...

How we come to accept wrong as the new right

Thu, Aug 14, 2008

Health care in Nevada seems to suffer from a normalization of deviance. In two recent high-profile cases — the hepatitis C crisis and the abuse of foreign doctors — professionals ...

State confronts J-1 complaints

Fri, Aug 8, 2008

In a series of unprecedented actions, state officials and a committee that oversees the hiring of foreign doctors have introduced new levels of accountability to a beleaguered program that allows ...

Doctor’s J-1 actions go under microscope

Thu, Aug 7, 2008

A state advisory committee today will examine the practices of a politically connected Las Vegas doctor who has been accused of exploiting foreign physicians — and now wants to hire ...

Despite abuse reports, state sent accused employers more J-1 docs

Wed, Aug 6, 2008

State officials not only ignored complaints that Las Vegas employers were abusing a government program involving foreign physicians, but allowed them to further exploit it, according to documents obtained by ...

State knew of abuses, did almost nothing

Mon, Aug 4, 2008

State officials have said for more than a year that they were unaware of complaints from foreign physicians that their bosses — most of them prominent immigrant doctors in Las ...

Overhaul of licensing agencies urged

Tue, Jul 29, 2008

Triggered by perceived failures on the part of the Medical Examiners Board during the hepatitis C investigation, Nevada’s largest physician association is proposing an overhaul of every licensing agency in ...

At first blush, a tough J-1 board

Tue, Apr 15, 2008

Nevada’s latest effort to reform a program that brings foreign physicians to the state is off to a deliberate and disciplined start. For the first time ever, health care experts ...

Foreign doctors get new guardians

Fri, Apr 11, 2008

A program that a Sun investigation revealed had been widely abused by employers, leading to the exploitation of foreign doctors and neglect of medically needy patients, is taking another important ...

Steps against doctors’ exploiters

Wed, Feb 13, 2008

State officials are taking steps to correct lax oversight of a program that brings foreign doctors to medically needy Nevada communities. A series of corrective steps by the state is ...

New watchdog: Doctors’ abusers are in for it

Tue, Jan 29, 2008

For a while, it seemed that doctors who violated the rules of a government program by exploiting foreign physicians would be let off the hook by state officials. But that ...

Protect foreign doctors who work in Nevada, colleagues urge

Wed, Jan 16, 2008

An association of about 1,400 Nevada physicians is calling for whistleblower protection for foreign doctors who complain of being exploited by their bosses, and for the government to more aggressively ...

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