News Briefs

ACOEM supports immigration reform

The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) has voiced support for the immigration reform proposal announced today by President Bush in a White House speech, saying it is a positive step in putting undocumented farm workers on the path toward legal status.

"Recognition of these workers as part of the American work force will ensure that they receive the health and safety protections intended for all workers," said ACOEM president John Holland, MD, MPH.

However, ACOEM asked President Bush to go further, urging him to strongly support the Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits, and Security Act of 2003 (AgJOBS) currently pending in the Congress. If enacted, the legislation (S.1645 and H.R. 314) would provide agricultural employers with a stable, legal labor supply by offering many agricultural workers who lack authorized immigration status the chance to become legal immigrants.

To qualify, the workers would have to demonstrate that they have been working in the U.S. in agriculture during the past 18 months and meet other immigration law and homeland security requirements. Upon becoming temporary residents, they would be required to work at least 360 days over a three- to six-year period in agriculture in the United States to gain permanent immigration status. The legislation also would revise the H-2A temporary foreign agricultural worker program.


OSHA delays enforcement of TB standard to July

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will delay until July 1, 2004, enforcement of the general industry respiratory standard for health care providers and other employers required to protect workers from potential exposure to tuberculosis.

Employers required to protect against TB were subject to a separate standard while a 1997 proposed rule for TB protection was being considered; however, OSHA recently decided to withdraw its proposed rule and to begin applying the general industry standard.

The delay will allow affected employers six months to make the changes necessary to comply with the general industry standard, which includes more stringent requirements, including mandatory annual fit-testing. The OSHA announcement can be found at www.osha.gov/ under "OSHA News."


Survey finds vacancies, turnover

A survey of hospital and other health care recruiters by Bernard Hodes Group found average vacancy rates of 13.9% for registered nurses. According to the on-line survey of 151 recruiters conducted from April 22 to Oct. 1, 2003.

Other reported nursing and allied health vacancies averaged 15.7% for occupational therapists, 14.6% for physical therapists, 14.4% for speech language therapists, and 14.2% for respiratory therapists. RNs had the highest turnover rate at 15.5%, followed by occupational therapists (14.9%), and respiratory therapists (14.2%). About 80% of survey respondents worked in acute care facilities. The complete survey can be found at www.hodes.com/hcrecruiting/.


AHIMA releases EHR standards

The American Health Information Management Association has released best-practice standards for electronic health records, intended to provide practical guidance in areas that play an integral role in the transition from paper to electronic health records.

The standards include information on implementing electronic signatures, core data sets for the physician practice electronic health record, and speech recognition in the electronic health record. Six guidance reports are now available at www.ahima.org/infocenter/ehim.