October 6, 2023
Maryland’s emergency rooms have the longest wait times in the nation.
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the average wait time in Maryland emergency rooms is three hours and 48 minutes.
A new law that went into effect this month is aimed at chipping away at those long waits.
Maryland State Del. Lesley Lopez told WTOP that there are a number of issues that contribute to long waits for medical care, and that one problem is the shortage of nurses in the state.
“Our state is short 5,000 full-time nurses and 4,000 licensed practical nurses,” Lopez said.
Lopez and Maryland State Sen. Cheryl Kagan championed a bill that would, in Lopez’s words, cut “bureaucratic red tape” that keeps qualified immigrants from being able to apply for health care positions until they have obtained federal work authorization.
In her testimony during the Maryland General Assembly session, Lopez explained that health care professionals are often recruited to the United States to help fill vacancies, but because Maryland requires that they have Social Security numbers (SSNs), they cannot begin the licensure application process.
Lopez said that requirement was “holding back care for Marylanders in a very real way.”
She said the law that went into effect on Oct. 1 is similar to laws in Texas and Florida.
“This isn’t necessarily a ‘blue state idea,’” Lopez said. “This is something that red states have been doing to modernize their licensure laws for quite some time.”
Lopez emphasizes that the new law does not change the level of expertise that applicants are required to have in order to be licensed to work in Maryland and it doesn’t change immigration law.
“There’s no change to employment law,” she said. “You do have to have a legal pathway to work.”