Las Vegas Sun

September 21, 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

Complaints lead doctors to dead ends

Sun, Dec 23, 2007

The desperate plea from the foreign doctor in Florida stands in stark contrast to the bureaucratic reply.

Doctors who abused doctors get off scot-free

Sat, Dec 15, 2007

State health officials Friday proposed better oversight of a program that allows foreign doctors to work in medically needy parts of Nevada.But they showed no willingness to investigate past violations ...

Exploited J-1 doctors urged to speak up

Tue, Dec 11, 2007

The lone doctor who complained to state legislators six weeks ago about being exploited by his employer in a government-sponsored program says it’s time for other foreign physicians to air ...

Sweeping changes in works to curb abuse of foreign doctor program

Mon, Dec 10, 2007

Two U.S. senators, including Majority Leader Harry Reid, called Thursday for an investigation into abuses of a federal program that provides doctors to communities lacking adequate medical care. In a ...

Physicians felt intimidated in state probe

Tue, Oct 30, 2007

The state has launched its inspections of primary care medical clinics in response to a Las Vegas Sun investigation that found employers exploiting foreign doctors and neglecting medically needy patients.

Patients in rural areas suffer

Fri, Oct 26, 2007

Jim White was relieved after moving to Pahrump, because it put him so close to a cancer treatment center. White needed chemotherapy three times a week to treat a type ...

Doctors join cry to protect doctors and patients

Sun, Oct 21, 2007

The state’s two largest medical societies are pressing Gov. Jim Gibbons to launch investigations of Las Vegas-area doctors who, the Sun found, game the government by exploiting foreign doctors for ...

Fallout over foreign doctors

Fri, Oct 5, 2007

Two U.S. senators, including Majority Leader Harry Reid, called Thursday for an investigation into abuses of a federal program that provides doctors to communities lacking adequate medical care.

Rally cry: Investigates accused doctors

Tue, Oct 2, 2007

Nevada legislators will investigate allegations published in the Sun of employers taking advantage of foreign doctors and abusing the system that allows them to stay in the United States to ...

Sponsor cheated her; doctor says

Sun, Sep 30, 2007

Dr. Elsa Von Schulenburg is one of about 1,000 foreign doctors at any given time who completed their medical residencies in the United States and, at Uncle Sam's beckoning, stayed ...

Patients in Pahrump shortchanged, ex-clinic workers say

Sun, Sep 30, 2007

Karen Nicholson and Bonnie Edwards say it's time to tell the truth about a clinic that was supposed to serve the medically underserved residents of rural Pahrump.

INDENTURED DOCTORS

Sun, Sep 30, 2007

By the time J-1 doctors start working in underserved communities, they have already traveled a long road.

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 ...

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