Las Vegas Sun

October 20, 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 probes physician's firing of foreign doctor

Tue, Jan 18, 2011

Dr. Rachakonda Prabhu, one of the most politically connected physicians in Las Vegas, has been the subject of an investigation by the federal government for his alleged mistreatment of foreign ...

Complaints about foreign doctor program linger with feds

Thu, Feb 18, 2010

State officials Wednesday praised the importance of a program that brings foreign doctors to Nevada’s medically needy communities, saying the program could be even more successful if federal agencies kept ...

State frustrated by feds' sluggish probe into foreign-physician program

Tue, Feb 16, 2010

Antsy state officials are growing frustrated with federal immigration authorities for their sluggish investigation into whether prominent Las Vegas physicians have abused a program that recruits foreign doctors to serve ...

State identifies doctors under federal investigation

Mon, Feb 15, 2010

State officials have identified six Las Vegas doctors, including two prominent physicians, under federal investigation for alleged violations of the law that guides a program that brings foreign doctors to ...

Foreign doctors’ sponsor investigated for alleged mistreatment

Tue, Nov 17, 2009

When Congress created a program to allow foreign doctors to work in medically needy parts of the country, nobody in Las Vegas took advantage of it more than Dr. Rachakonda ...

Regulation in need of a checkup

Sun, Oct 25, 2009

The Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners is required by law to protect patients. But critics — doctors and lawmakers among them — say the board is hampered by conflicts ...

State bars physician from J-1 visa waiver program

Sun, Aug 2, 2009

State authorities who oversee a program that brings foreign doctors to medically needy communities have taken their first drastic enforcement action, revoking a Las Vegas doctor’s participation because he repeatedly ...

Desai may be fit to proceed, but other holdups remain

Wed, Jul 29, 2009

Dr. Dipak Desai, whose clinic caused a massive hepatitis C outbreak because of unsafe injection practices, has recovered sufficiently from a stroke to answer charges by the Nevada State Medical ...

MountainView using threats to deter nurses, union alleges

Sat, Jul 18, 2009

MountainView Hospital administrators are accused of intimidation, making threats and using religion in their fight against a nurses union attempt to organize, according to a federal complaint filed by the ...

Legislators get tough on abuse of foreign doctor program

Thu, May 28, 2009

Legislators have given final approval to a bill authorizing the Health Department to stop the exploitation of foreign doctors who have come to practice in the state’s blighted urban areas ...

Bill would better protect foreign J-1 doctors

Fri, May 15, 2009

State lawmakers are considering legislation to stop the exploitation of foreign doctors who have come to Nevada because there aren’t enough physicians here.

J-1 doctors at UMC: It could benefit both

Thu, Apr 9, 2009

The subject came up randomly in a conversation with Kathy Silver, CEO of University Medical Center.

In doctors' rush to bill, treatment on the fly

Sun, Mar 29, 2009

Rumors about doctors fraudulently billing Medicare and insurance companies are whispered throughout the Las Vegas medical community, and for good reason.

Abuse under foreign doctor program alleged

Sun, Mar 29, 2009

When he started working for Dr. Dhiresh Joshi in February 2006, Dr. Fadi El Salibi was a “J-1 doctor,” a participant in a government program to bring foreign physicians to ...

J-1 doctors, employers are under scrutiny

Sun, Jan 25, 2009

State health authorities have their eyes on Dr. Titilola Famakinwa and her bosses at the Apex Medical Center.

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