New immigration law causes licensing delay for doctors

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ATLANTA —

Doctors and nurses across Georgia are scrambling to renew their licenses after a change in state law.

Renewal used to be a quick and easy process, but a change in a law that has nothing to do with medicine is creating a backlog for medical professionals.

When lawmakers tightened the state’s immigration laws, one provision was to require all licensed professionals to prove citizenship at renewal time.

Some medical professionals have had to briefly stop seeing patients due to the new delays in renewal as a result of the law.

A small staff at the Medical Composite Board in downtown Atlanta is struggling to keep up with renewals for Georgia’s 41,000 doctors and other medical professionals.

Doctor’s licensing must be renewed every two years. This was previously done on a state website, with a few clicks and a renewal payment. Doctors received confirmation of renewal immediately.

Now, applicants must submit a notarized affidavit and ID proving citizenship. The state says near a third of doctors are seeing a delay of 10 or more days.

“I can tell you we have no found one yet, and so far we have processed about 2,800 pieces and so far everyone’s legal,” Bob Jeffrey of the Georgia Medical Composite Board said.

The Medical Association of Georgia said it has been barraged with calls from frantic doctors.

“We’ve received a number of complaints from our physician members discussing they’ve had a number of licensing delays,” Jeffrey said.

Eighty percent of Georgia’s medical licenses will be up for renewal in 2013.

“It’s added another administrative burden to physicians, so it’s taken away some time from their focus on patient care and that’s where the real concern is,” Donald Palmisano Jr. of the Medical Association of Georgia said.

Many groups are pushing lawmakers to make adjustments during their next session.