Trump xenophobia bars Canadian nurses from the USA

This video from the USA says about itself:

30 January 2017

Donald Trump’s presidency was too much to bear for one woman so she died the day after his inauguration. The tongue and cheek obituary for Robin Porch was posted in the local St. Louis, Missouri newspaper. Her family wrote, “With Trump as president, Canada wasn’t far enough, so she moved to Heaven.” Robin was a retired registered nurse at a hospital. The 62-year-old enjoyed reading and spending time with her grandchildren.

By Shannon Jones in the USA:

US immigration bars Canadian nurses employed at Michigan hospitals

18 March 2017

At least 30 Canadian nurses working at US hospitals in the state of Michigan were told last week that they could not enter the country because of changes to immigration policies under the Trump administration.

According to a CBC report, Canadian nurses employed at Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital were not able to renew their working visas. Immigration officials told one Canadian nurse new hire that advance practice nurses and nurse anesthetists no longer qualify for working visas because of the changes. All Canadian nurses employed in the US have non-immigrant North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) professional (TN) visas.

The nurses are being told by US immigration that they no longer qualify under the NAFTA TN category and that they must apply for H1B visas status, a more specialized category. Those applications can cost $3,000-4,000.

According to the CBC, some 30,000-40,000 Canadians work in the US under TN visas, which allow experts in certain fields a more expedited visa as long as they have a job offer.

Kathy Macki, the human resource director at Henry Ford Health Systems, reported at a press conference Thursday that 30 nurses have been affected so far by the changes. Hospital officials say they are working with the nurses to facilitate their being able to continue on the job in the US.

To apply for H1B status, Henry Ford would have to apply for expedited status, which could take up to three weeks.

Henry Ford hospital alone has hundreds of Canadian nationals on its staff and about 25 advanced nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists.

Mark Topoleski, an immigration lawyer employed by Henry Ford Hospital, told the CBC “We really question the motives. All the immigration executive orders and all the things being rolled out have been focused on national security first, and this is clearly not an issue of national security whatsoever. Livelihoods are at stake.”

US immigration officials say that they are suspending their fast track-program for processing H1B visas as of April 3. Applications for work visas typically take six months or longer. The suspension of premium H1B processing could last six months or longer and is in line with the virulently anti-immigrant stance of the Trump administration, which includes the recent travel ban on immigrants from six Muslim-majority countries. The courts have blocked that ban, at least temporarily.

At the Thursday press conference Topoleski said, “It will have a drastic impact on Henry Ford’s ability to provide patient care. This change in policy was not announced and has yet to be put out in any written format, so we really don’t understand the rationale behind this policy change.” He said he had also heard reports of a case involving a Canadian nurse working in Washington state.

At the same press conference, Patti Kunkel, a Canadian nurse practitioner who commutes daily from Ontario to work in Henry Ford’s cardiac surgery acute care unit, said she was anxious. “I worry I’ll be turned away at the border. This puts stress not only on me but on my team. We have high-acuity patients, and there’s a critical shortage of staff.” Kunkel has practiced nursing in Michigan under terms of NAFTA since 2000.

H1B visas last for three years and can be renewed for another three years. There were an average of 140,000 H1B visas issued annually between 2006 and 2015. There are no official statistics on the number of people working on H1B visas, but the number is said to be close to 1 million.

TN visas give certain Canadian professionals, such as nurses, the right to work in the US with little paperwork and unlimited renewals. Mexican nationals also qualify for TN visas under NAFTA, but must apply for a visa at a US embassy or consulate first.

In a statement issued Thursday, Customs and Border Protection public affairs officer Kris Grogan claimed there had been no change in policy relating to TN status.

The move to restrict work visas for nurses comes as the United States continues in the throes of a nursing shortage that promises to get worse as the population ages. There are some 3 million nurses in the US and nurses comprise the largest sector of the health care workforce.

According to a report in the Atlantic, a large portion of the US nursing workforce is over the age of 50 and 700,000 are expected to retire by 2024. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1.2 million vacancies will open for registered nurses between 2014 and 2022, creating a shortage as large as any experienced in the US since the enactment of Medicare and Medicaid.

At the same time the supply of trained nurses is not keeping pace due to the chronic underfunding of the US education system. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, “U.S. nursing schools turned away 79,659 qualified applicants in 2012 due to insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors, and budget constraints.”

An amicus curiae brief filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in relation to a lawsuit directed against the Trump administration’s travel ban calls foreign-born health care providers a “critical pillar of American health-care infrastructure.” According to the brief, some 28 percent of physicians in the US are immigrants, as are 15 percent of registered nurses and nearly 21 percent of direct-care workers. These include home health aides and personal-care assistants. The brief also notes “immigrant doctors and health-care workers are especially concentrated in medically underserved areas such as poor and rural communities.”

Lack of trained nurses can lead to the reduction of the number of hospital beds or to overwork of nursing staff. According to the Atlantic, “Overworking leads to fatigue and burnout, which threatens the quality of care and increases the incidence of error. Past research has found links between insufficient nursing staff and higher rates of hospital readmission and patient mortality.”

There is a high turnover rate in the nursing field related to stress. According to the journal Nursing Economics, some 30 to 50 percent of new registered nurses change jobs or leave the field within the first three years of clinical practice.

Fukushima, worse radiation than ever

This video from Japan says about itself:

Fukushima Unit 2 Scorpion Probe Dies But Sends Back Some Data

Feb 16 2017

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Japan: Fukushima’s high radiation wrecks robot

Saturday 18th February 2017

Nuclear disaster site’s clean-up hits big trouble

ROBOT probes sent into a wrecked Fukushima nuclear reactor suggest that the clean-up process faces worse than anticipated problems, the plant operator admitted yesterday.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) said that the remote-controlled “scorpion” robot had been sent into the Unit 2 reactor’s containment vessel on Thursday to investigate the area around the core that melted six years ago.

However, its crawling function failed while climbing over highly radioactive debris.

The robot, carrying a dosimeter, thermometer and two small cameras, transmitted some data and visuals but failed to locate melted fuel, which is key to determining how to remove debris from the reactor.

The robot was abandoned inside the vessel at a point where it won’t block a future probe.

Preliminary examinations in recent weeks have detected structural damage to planned robot routes and higher-than-expected radiation inside the Unit 2 containment chamber, suggesting the need to revise robot designs and probes. Similar probes are planned for the two other melted reactors.

A tiny waterproof robot that can go underwater will be sent into Unit 1 in the coming weeks, but experts haven’t yet worked out a way to access the badly damaged Unit 3.

The operator needs to know the melted fuel’s exact location and condition and other structural damage in each of the three wrecked reactors to assess the best and safest ways to remove the fuel.

Despite the incomplete probe missions, Tepco is sticking to its schedule to determine methods for melted fuel removal this summer before starting work in 2021, said spokesman Yuichi Okamura.

The company is struggling with the plant’s decommissioning, which is expected to last decades, following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that led to the meltdown.

Tens of thousands of residents are still unable to return to their home because of high radiation.

Earlier this month, another robot, designed to clean debris for the main scorpion probe, had to return midway through because two cameras became inoperable after two hours when its total radiation exposure reached a maximum tolerance of 1,000 sievert. This level would kill a human within seconds.

Local servicemen may have radiation poisoning from Fukushima — San Diego City Beat, USA: here.

The Fukushima nuclear meltdown continues unabated — Helen Caldicott: here.