Experts: Doctor shortage in Idaho could be getting worse

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Experts: Doctor shortage in Idaho could be getting worse

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by Karen Zatkulak

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KTVB.COM

Posted on January 21, 2014 at 6:09 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 21 at 6:22 PM

BOISE -- Some medical experts say the doctor shortage in Idaho could be getting worse.

Now, the program that helps bring medical students into our state has asked for more funding and more positions.

As we've reported, doctors in the Gem State are getting older, and many are facing retirement.

In fact, 25 percent of the physicians are over the age of 60.

Which is why the medical program that serves Idaho is asking for more seats.

WWAMI trains medical students across the Northwest, and has for 42 years.

Mary Barinaga is WWAMI's assistant dean. She says now is the time for our state to spend the extra money to get more doctors in.

"We've got big challenges ahead, and so if want want providers to be to take care of us, we need our physicians," said Barinaga.

Barinaga says five more seats are needed in WWAMI.

"We consider WWAMI Idaho's medical school," said Barinaga.

Last year, the number of seats for medical students went from 20 up to 25, and now she's asking for that number to increase once again to 30.

"We're facing a looming physician retirement coming up so knowing it takes 11 years after high school to produce a physician, we really need to start getting people into that pipeline," said Barinaga.

Barinaga says more medical students need to start now in order to the get doctors needed for both cities and rural areas across the state.

 

"In order to fill that pipeline that creates doctors, this is the way we do it, we need money appropriated so we can fill those spots and put people through, and then have them stay in Idaho and practice as physicians," said Barinaga.

Barinaga made two requests to lawmakers on Monday.  One, to continue funding the extra five seats added last year, then the second to add five more seats.

As for the expense to the state, Barinaga says to fund five students all the way through the four-year medical program would cost about $700,000.

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