Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove advises Trump on immigration ban's harm to healthcare

Cleveland Clinic building
Cleveland Clinic (courtesy photo)

Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove, M.D., told President Donald Trump that the immigration ban had consequences for healthcare and the White House administration seemed to acknowledge the rollout was poorly handled.

Toby Cosgrove
Toby Cosgrove

Cosgrove, speaking to reporters after his annual State of the Clinic address to Cleveland Clinic staff, discussed the executive order's impact on healthcare for the first time, according to STAT. Suha Abushamma, M.D., a doctor with Cleveland Clinic, was caught in Trump’s ban, but she has since returned to the United States. The immigration remains been on hold after a federal appeals court ruling late last week upheld an earlier circuit court decision.

RELATED: Trump immigration ban remains on hold after appeals court ruling

Trump's executive order was immediately felt in the healthcare industry, as the ban suspended entry from seven countries for 90 days. In addition to the doctors barred from entering the country while the ban was actively being enforced, experts warned that the ban could impact medical education and prevent foreign doctors from entering residency programs. The Trump administration has hinted that it is working on a replacement executive order. 

“I think they realized it was not implemented well ... They listened and we’ll have to see what they take back,” Cosgrove said. He said he spoke with the president about how the healthcare industry benefits from immigrants who come to work in the U.S., and how the ban could negatively impact the industry.

Cosgrove serves on a nonpartisan panel in the Trump administration, which makes business and economic growth recommendations. He was also at one point the frontrunner for the Department of Veterans Affairs secretary. David Shulkin, M.D., has since been confirmed to the post.

RELATED: Cleveland Clinic’s Toby Cosgrove drops out of running for VA secretary

Doctors beyond Cleveland Clinic have been coming out against the ban. A group of 12 physician organizations called for the ban to be rescinded. Failing that, they said the government should take steps to ease travel restrictions that impact medical education and access to healthcare services. The groups sent a letter (PDF) to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly that said the order will “undermine medical education and result in patients losing access to their doctors.”

Cleveland Clinic also came under fire recently for planning an annual fundraiser at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in the wake of the immigration ban. More than 1,000 doctors and nurses signed an open letter urging the system to cancel the event.

The letter asked Cosgrove to make a public statement that condemns the immigration ban and pledge to use his power to protect Cleveland Clinic employees from deportation and allow patients to continue to receive care. 

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