Doctor Shortage Creates Issues for Patients Everywhere

When you get sick, you want to know there is a doctor available to help you. But now, Oklahoma ranks near the bottom of the states when it comes to fulfilling the need for care.

Studies show that doctors work where they do their training so many doctors end up in Tulsa. But still there are people in outlying areas who need their help. Marvin Newell says he travels 42 miles to see his doctor, who moved away from Sand Springs, years ago to booming, south Tulsa.

In Oklahoma, academic medical experts say it's a problem convincing doctors to go to rural areas and then, getting them to stay there. There are more medical students than there are training facilities and that is one issue in our state. Another issue is doctors are graduating with more school debt, upwards of 170-thousand dollars. Instead of choosing to be family doctors, they are going for more lucrative specialties, like anesthesiology.

"So they have a significant debt. They have to consider how are they going to retire when they look at specific practices, places to practices and specialties to practice," explained Dr. David Hitzeman, of OSU Medical Center, who oversees residents.

He says one solution is finding funding that will pay for doctors to be trained in rural areas, specifically. Another idea is to provide incentives, like improved salaries and school debt relief.