Iowa Ahead of Doctor Shortage

Created: 06/16/2014 11:21 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- With Iowa's senior population one of the highest in the country, health care is an ever growing concern.

But new data shows things are looking up.

The Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, puts a large focus on access to primary care physicians. And while there's a shortage of those positions across the country, Iowa is steadily gaining ground.

A new report from the Iowa Board of Medicine shows more than 6,800 physicians worked in the state in 2013.

That's up two percent from the year before, and up 12 percent from 2006.

Experts said the climbing numbers are indicative of what's happening elsewhere around the country.

"The number of physicians throughout the United States is going up,” said Mitch Morrison, director of recruitment at Mercy Medical Center North Iowa. “There is a huge shortage of physicians throughout the country and obviously Iowa has a great need because of the elderly population."

Morrison said that growing elderly population is putting a strain on health care in more ways than one.

"We have a large number of physicians throughout the country that are nearing retirement age as well, so the demographics would demonstrate that we need to replace those physicians,” Morrison said. “The good news is we have more physicians in training than we've ever had."

To attract those young doctors to rural areas, the state and federal government offer student loan forgiveness programs.

But where physicians are still hard to find, experts said it's up to others to step up and provide the needed care.

"You're seeing non-physician providers, such as nurse practitioners and P.A.’s, being more useful in these rural settings, especially under the guidance of a physician, and that seems to help out,” Morrison said.

To attract new physicians, Mercy Medical Center North Iowa is offering $5,000 to anyone who refers a physician to the clinic who ultimately gets hired.

For more information on the referral program, head to their website by clicking on the following link:

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