Georgia could lose thousands of its nurses by this weekend, all because of confusion over some paperwork.
Under Georgia's new immigration law, everyone applying for a state license has to prove citizenship. The deadline for nurses is this Friday and as of Tuesday more than 3,500 nurses have failed to do it.
That's about 6 percent of the state's nurses who could be in for a rude awakening if they don't get their paperwork in. And if they don't, it could be the public that suffers most.
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp called the recent change a side effect of the new immigration bill. It wasn't the main goal, but, he said, a law is a law.
"Whether it's important or not is irrelevant. They have to have it by law and we have to have it before we can process that license," said Kemp.
If not, Saturday, which is the day after the deadline, could be a rough day for a lot of nurses.
"Their HR people know when nurses' licenses are coming due so they'll be checking them, and if people don't have them they'll make you leave the hospital in a lot of cases," said Kemp.
It's something Debbie Hackman, the CEO of the Georgia Nursing Association, fears could be a disaster.
"They can't function without them. They're the center of the healthcare system in the hospital," said Hackman.
They're so important she said we're not just talking about a drop in quality. She said certain things just wouldn't be possible.
"If a percentage of those have not gotten their license, then they may have to close units or floors. They would not have the personnel to be able to do what they need to do," said Hackman.
But Secretary Kemp said it's not too late.
Most of the 3,500 nurses just don't have an ID on file to prove citizenship. He said all they need to do is just drop it off or fax it in.
Copyright 2013 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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