Minnesota Attorney General, 2007 to 2019

February 13, 2017

Travel ban could devastate rural health care

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Small-town hospitals and clinics in rural Minnesota suffering from a shortage of doctors could be devastated if President Donald Trump’s immigration restrictions prevail, state Attorney General Lori Swanson said.

Foreign-born doctors have helped ease the shortage of physicians in rural Minnesota, a state where one out of five doctors was born in another country, Swanson said.

“That’s huge, and many of them are serving in rural parts of our state to deal with this crisis of not having enough primary care doctors,” Swanson told the Minneapolis Star Tribune (http://strib.mn/2khWAXE).

Swanson, a Democrat, and her team joined Washington state to challenge Trump’s executive order banning travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries. A federal judge sided with the states by issuing a temporary restraining order on the ban. A federal appeals court upheld the restraining order, though Trump said Friday he is considering signing a “brand new order.”

Swanson said her office has been flooded with emails and phone calls since Trump signed his original order.

“We’re getting contacted by so many people — families who are separated by the ocean. Health care. Universities deprived of scientists who can’t come now. Corporations who are relying on people from some of these countries to help bring know-how to us,” Swanson said Friday. “It’s really quite broad.”

Swanson’s office has compiled more than a dozen sworn statements from those affected by the ban. Others from the academic and corporate worlds have confided in Swanson’s office but won’t go public, she said.

“There’s fear and trepidation ... that the president will tweet at them,” Swanson said.

According to Swanson, 275 doctors in Minnesota are from the seven countries affected by Trump’s order. She said some have decided not to return to their home countries for emergencies, funerals or visits to their families because they fear they won’t be allowed back into the U.S.

In some communities, a foreign-born doctor could be the entire medical staff, said Cindy Morrison, chief marketing officer for Sanford Health, which has 1,400 physicians serving in 300 communities in western Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and northwestern Iowa.

“They are critical for underserved areas,” Morrison said.


Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com