This week, former US Health and Human Services Secretaries Kathleen Sebelius (President Obama’s administration) and Alex Azar (President Trump’s administration) jointly published a bipartisan opinion piece in Time calling on Congress to act quickly before a tidal wave of retirement all but certain to overwhelm the nursing industry takes hold and threatens patients nationwide.

The former Secretaries write that without innovative policy solutions, “the same country that performed the first successful kidney transplant and pioneered anesthesia and heart rhythm restoration will have no choice but to ration care.”

Sebelius and Azar cited critical gaps in care already being experienced by the industry. Studies reveal that within the next two years, the healthcare sector will experience a shortage of up to 450,000 nurses. Economists currently estimate that the U.S. healthcare system will require 200,000 new nurses every year through 2026 to fully rehabilitate the sector—according to Sebelius and Azar, “we’ll be lucky to get half of that.”

We’re already seeing impacts on innocent patients nationwide—especially in rural areas. Earlier this year, an Alabama man was turned away from 43 different hospitals across three states before dying 200 miles away from his home—as no system had enough resources to care for him. A hospital in upstate New York was forced to pause its maternity services after it could not recruit enough staff to offset resignations and retirement. These are only a few examples of the lived experiences of patients nationwide.

Sebelius and Azar claim that, currently, employment-based healthcare immigration is a “complex labyrinth of rules and regulations that doesn’t make it easy or fast for an international nurse to emigrate and begin treating American patients.” This will be further exacerbated by a visa freeze introduced by the U.S. Department of State. As a result, any nurse who became eligible for their green card after June 1, 2022—thousands of potential nurses—is ineligible to enter the country. On the ground, this means American hospitals won’t be getting the nurses they’ve been counting on any time soon.

The nursing industry needs robust support from Congress. Sebelius and Azar, along with countless other health advocates, have called on legislators to recapture allocated-but-untouched green cards for the express use of immigrant nurses. The wellbeing of patients nationwide is at stake.

Read more from Time here.