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Oklahoma Faces Large Doctor Shortage

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Oklahoma routinely ranks at the bottom of health rankings. Oklahoma routinely ranks at the bottom of health rankings.
OKLAHOMA CITY -

Oklahoma routinely ranks at the bottom of health rankings. The state scrapes the bottom of lists for conditions like obesity, heart disease and premature death.

But it turns out, there just aren’t enough doctors to go around.

According to the United Health Foundation, Oklahoma's doctor shortage is one of the worst in country. The state comes in at 48 for the number of doctors, with just 85 for every 100,000 people and it gets worse when you break it up by specialist.

“It's severe in Oklahoma,” Executive Director of the State Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision said.

Kelsey said the diagnosis for the shortage comes from a few things plaguing most states; more expensive medical school costs driving students away, a high number of doctors retiring and an inability to recruit doctors into the state to replace them.

All of that means rural communities and victims of rare diseases will be hardest hit by the symptoms of the shortage.

“People will have to drive quite a way to get to medical care, a lot of them may not have bus money, may not have a working car or friends to take them whatever. So that complicates things right there,” Kelsey said.

There are some things the state is doing to bring doctors in, one of them is trying to get Oklahoma to join an Interstate Compact.  It lets doctors from 17 states move to Oklahoma without having to get a new medical license.

The current system is more akin to the legal bar system in which lawyers have to pass state exams with few instances of state to state reciprocity. Kelsey said so far state legislators have not been responsive to the compact idea.

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