ALABAMA (WHNT) – According to the Alabama Hospital Association, the state’s shortage of physicians is so bad that lawmakers have stepped in to try and alleviate the problem.
Families are moving from other states to Alabama and into flourishing and growing communities, but some have been waiting for several months to find a family physician.
The doctor shortage in rural Alabama started before the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic began that growing need has Congress exploring how to address this situation quickly.
Carolyn and her family moved to Jackson County years ago and still have yet to find a family physician.
“I’ve been looking for a family doctor for about four years since twenty-nineteen,” Carolyn explained. “Every doctor’s office that I’ve called to inquire about a physician has put me on a waiting list. I have not moved up on any of the lists.”
Dr. Don Williamson, director of the Alabama Hospital Association says that the migration of people coming in allows state lawmakers to better see how hard it is for people to get a physician.
“When you have a health physician shortage area, you by definition have too few physicians for the people in that community,” said Williamson.
The Alabama House of Representatives has approved a bill that aims to directly address the state’s ongoing doctor shortage. The Physician Workforce Act is aimed to start at the base.
Older physicians have retired and left a huge gap in coverage, but the bill creates an open door for practicing physicians from out-of-state to come in – eliminating a state law that otherwise blocked that move.
“It removes a requirement for a licensed physician from another state who has not had a written examination within ten years so that the physician would be able to come into Alabama and practice,” said Williamson.
The bill also establishes an apprentice-like program for medical school graduates who are waiting to get placed into residency. something the AHA has been hopeful for years.
“Obviously we are in support of anything that will improve the supply of physicians practicing high-quality medicine in Alabama because there is a shortage in every community in the state,” said Williamson.
Carolyn said that she was able to find a physician in her former state of Georgia, but that’s over a two-hour drive from her home in Jackson County.
State lawmakers are recognizing that there is a great need for newcomers and their families.