Arizona’s Doctor Shortage Highest in Rural Areas
In a prior post, we discussed Arizona’s new universal licensing law that allows certain professionals from other states to relocate to Arizona without additional licensing requirements. A recent study by the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare association found that Arizona ranks 44th out of 50 in its ratio of active primary care doctors to population, and Arizona’s shortage of about 600 doctors is more pronounced in rural and remote parts of the state.
This shortage is expected to triple in the next decade, attributed, in part, to a growing state population and an aging population that is outliving their predecessors (and thus needing more medical care). Current conditions (such as run-down facilities) make it hard to attract replacements, especially in these already under-served areas. In remote locations, one physician can serve thousands of residents. Such an overwhelming workload puts physicians at risk for burnout, mental health conditions like anxiety or depression, illnesses, and injury. It also can result in presenteeism—doctors working in spite of their own health conditions, and ignoring the risk to patients and their own health.
One solution the state is exploring is the expansion of local residency programs for general surgery and internal medicine, with the hope that those who complete their residency in Arizona will ultimately choose to stay and set up practice.
Arizona’s Rural Hospitals Facing Severe Doctor Shortage, Associated Press, Sept. 7, 2019.
CNBC: Solving the Doctor Shortage, CNBC, Sept. 6, 2019.