It was a long time coming for Premal Jani, owner of Surrogate Family Care on Jericho Turnpike in New Hyde Park, when her business in 2019 received the license it was seeking.
For years she was only able to provide a scaled-back version of what her operations are now while she waited for the licensing she applied for in 2013.
In 2018, a new law was enacted which placed a two-year moratorium on the processing and approval of applications to be licensed home care services agencies, adding to what was an arduous process.
“I learned a lot while waiting. I was able to be a companion caregiver,” Jani said. “We were able to help many people and touch many lives in a good way.”
Today, Surrogate Family Care offers home health care on top of the companion care it began providing when the business opened in 2013. Other services include nursing and physical therapy.
Business was going swimmingly until 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
As a licensed physician in India since 1991, Jani could not bring the same certifications to the U.S. when she moved to New Hyde Park in 2000. The opportunity to become a physician and undergo a residency is a difficult decision to make for foreign medical graduates, she said.
“Medical studies take a lot of time. I was working full time, helping raise my family and studying side by side,” Jani said.
The hurdles to redo the entire process prove too difficult for many foreign graduates, and a lot of them opt for less strenuous careers in health care without the luxury of fitting the education into their life styles again. However, COVID-19 temporarily changed that.
With a shortage of frontline workers, NYC Health + Hospitals sought foreign medical graduates to help volunteer in support roles, she said. People in the same position she was in almost 20 years ago were now being given the chance to boost residency applications and provide help where needed, but Jani said she knows many graduates who were too far from their old practices.
“Unfortunately for many people, once you are out of that flow for a long time it’s hard to go back,” Jani said.
Another issue Surrogate Family Care faced was the same one many other businesses did, keeping up operations during lockdowns.
The clients Surrogate serves are the most at risk and weary of in-house professionals tending to them, while young workers needed to stay home and watch their children, who weren’t going to school anymore.
“This whole thing was a vicious cycle. Every day there are hundreds of families and cases that need help and I want to be able to provide that for them,” Jani said.
As Surrogate works to get the staff and operations back up to the speed it was in 2019, Jani is happy to still be working in the field she loves.
“It’s a very rewarding field,” she said. “It’s amazing to work with these people.”