Texas relaxes rules to allow out-of-state doctors to help Harvey victims

When a natural disaster hits, it's all hands on deck, and that was certainly the case with Hurricane Harvey, even for doctors.

SAN ANTONIO - When a natural disaster hits it's all hands on deck, and that was certainly the case with Hurricane Harvey. 

With so many people needing medical attention following the storm, Texas has relaxed the rules allowing out-of-state doctors to help out.

Medical workers employed by any U.S. hospital who are licensed and in good standing do not need a Texas license to help out. They can now get a 30-day temporary license to assist in treating those affected by Harvey.

"We wanted to make sure there was accessibility from out of state to allow physicians who were willing and able to help, to be able to come in and do so," said Texas Medical Board President Dr. Sherif Zaafran. 

Zaafran said most of the out-of-state physicians who applied were approved much faster than the typical 30 days wait. 

"Some of the information gatherings that we would typically do we've asked to help expedite that so we can at least at a minimum grant those temporary licenses hopefully within the same day," Dr. Zaafran said.

"This is a process that has been developed for several years with multiple states secondary to other disasters such as Katrina," added EMS Fellowship Director and Clinical Faculty with UT Health San Antonio Department of Emergency Medicine and University Health System emergency medicine, Dr. Craig Cooley. 

Cooley said when natural disasters hit other states, physicians from Texas often end up practicing there too. 

"I know there were assets from Texas that went for Hurricane Sandy and there are assets that travel across state lines all the time both from Texas and from other states," Dr. Cooley said.

In order to be eligible, an out-of-state physician must have a license to practice medicine in another jurisdiction, have a sponsoring physician in Texas, and submit to a criminal history verification. If they pass all three, the application could be approved as quickly as that same day.

However, the 30 days can be longer if need be. 

"It's the 30 days and of course the governor can choose to extend that if he so chooses," Dr. Zaafran said.

© 2017 KENS-TV


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