Doctor: Oklahoma Physician Shortage Is A 'Health Crisis'

Wednesday, September 18th 2019, 7:05 pm
By: Karl Torp

State medical leaders say Oklahoma is experiencing one of the worst doctor shortages in the country. 

Doctors are at a premium. In rural areas, some Oklahoma hospitals have closed.

“There’s an extreme shortage. Oklahoma is one of the deserts for physicians in the United States,” said Dr. Larry Bookman, President of the Oklahoma State Medical Association.

Dr. Bookman said Oklahoma can't grow its number of physicians until it grows its number of residency slots.

“They aren’t being increased. They are staying the same. Staying the same means you are already behind,” said Dr. Bookman.

The doctor says statistics show most physicians stay close to where they complete their residencies.

Dr. Bookman is lobbying lawmakers for more money for teaching hospitals for residency positions.

This year, state lawmakers pledged $62.8 million to Oklahoma teaching hospitals.

Dr. Bookman said that was to make up for lost federal funding, and the one-time funds won’t produce a large number of residency positions.

“You can’t have a five-year residency and only know it’s funded for one year,” added Dr. Bookman.

With more teaching hospitals like an OSU facility in Tahlequah, coming online next year, Dr. Bookman said a bigger investment is needed to keep Oklahoma educated medical students in the state.