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Possible physician shortage concerns local doctors

Posted at 11:29 PM, Jul 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-20 01:16:47-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of the medical field as the pandemic continues. However, a recent study says that outbreak years from now may be harder to deal with due to a shortage of doctors.

“I think there would have been a lot more people who wouldn’t have survived this without physicians,” said Dr. Wendy Grant, Professor of Surgery at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

It’s no secret who’s been on the front lines of the pandemic, as medical staff, including doctors, have been working around the clock.

“All members of the health care team are really important, but I think that one of the really important things is to make sure is to have enough physicians to answer a lot of questions,” said Grant.

A recent study from the Association of American Medical Colleges says the United States could see a shortage of physicians, anywhere from 54,000 to nearly 140,000 by the year 2033. That estimate is not a shock to Dr. Grant.

“I totally agree this is something that has been in the works and has been discussed for a really long time,” said Grant.

The study mentions how population growth and life expectancy rates continue to outpace the number of needed physicians. Dr. Grant also says there is an ongoing issue when it comes to getting people to practice medicine.

“What has not kept pace with the increase in medical students is the number of residency slots, so if you don’t do a residency, you can’t get board certified, and you can’t practice medicine,” said Grant.

She says funding, especially from the federal level, would help increase residency spots. Others say the study doesn’t take into account some crucial factors. If the cost of medical care goes up due to a lack of doctors, people may decide to live healthier thus reducing their need.

“To see a doctor is going to become very expensive if that’s the case. Then as a consumer, what I’m going to do is probably going to adjust my behavior,” said Dr. Zhigang Feng, Associate Professor of Economics at UNO.

Dr. Feng says the medical industry may be able to attract more people to be doctors because of better incentives like higher pay if there aren’t as many to choose from.

“We are going to see encouraging or other people willing to take the cause or maybe take the pain to go through these lengthy trainings or residencies to become a doctor,” said Feng.

Dr. Grant says a shortage can impact you no matter where you live, and access to a doctor is something we shouldn't take for granted.

“It’s just a part of who we are, you have to be able to get health care, and that’s why it’s important,” said Grant.

Grant also says proper recruitment of medical students is critical. Visit this link to review the study.