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Rural Oklahoma Desperate For Doctors, Concerned By Shortage

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The American Medical Association ranks Oklahoma as the worst in the nation for physician to patient ratio and the doctor shortage is drastic is rural areas. The American Medical Association ranks Oklahoma as the worst in the nation for physician to patient ratio and the doctor shortage is drastic is rural areas.
In spite of having state of the art equipment, Kingfisher Regional Hospital is desperate for doctors. Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians wants lawmakers to consider using a tobacco tax loophole to fund the incentives to get doctors in rural areas. In spite of having state of the art equipment, Kingfisher Regional Hospital is desperate for doctors. Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians wants lawmakers to consider using a tobacco tax loophole to fund the incentives to get doctors in rural areas.

Colleen Chen, News 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The American Medical Association ranks Oklahoma as the worst in the nation for physician to patient ratio.

The severe doctor shortage is especially a problem in rural Oklahoma where hospitals are having a difficult time recruiting the number of doctors needed in the community.

The Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians is working with other organizations to try and get the state legislature to help narrow the gap. The idea is being called The Oklahoma Physician Recruitment and Retention Program. The idea is to give student loan repayment assistance to doctors who make a four year commitment to work in underserved communities.

"We need doctors now. We needed them yesterday. We needed them a year ago. Successful hospitals have to have a balance of primary care physicians and specialists. We have a shortage of both, but we have a state of the art facility. It's just hard to recruit when we're competing against states who offer better incentives," said Nancy Schmid, CEO of Kingfisher Regional Hospital.

If rural Oklahoma doesn't get more doctors, everyone will pay.

"They end up in emergency rooms, they have to travel a long distance or die early," said Dr. Steven Crawford, Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians.

Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians wants lawmakers to consider using a tobacco tax loophole to fund the incentives to get doctors into rural areas. Right now smokeless tobacco is taxed based on price instead of the weight or unit. Supporters say by taxing it like cigarettes, new money could be generated to pay for the help.

Texas is using the tobacco loophole to fund a program for rural doctors there and experts say many new doctors are choosing to go there instead of staying in Oklahoma.

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