Psychiatrist Shortage Leaves Doctors Overloaded, Patients In A Bind

A myriad of issues over the last few years has left the Panhandle in a severe psychiatrist shortage.

We're told a combination of the economy, losing local doctors, and an increase in patients has brought us to this point.

One reason for the shortage is tragically losing local doctors, like Matthew Houseal, whose recent death brought the number of local psychiatrists to 12.

One of them, Dr. Mustafa Hussain, says "we lost him. We have no replacement for him. A few years back another colleague died. When we lose psychiatrists we don't get any replacements."

Along with that, Dr. Hussain says 75 percent of new psychiatrists in Texas look to bigger cities with more doctors to practice to avoid the huge caseload.  He says "the younger doctors especially are opting for a better lifestyle. They want to spend time with their families, they want to do other things for their own personal growth."

Those translate to more pressure on local psychiatrists.  Dr. Son Vi Nguyen, another local doctor, says "the reality is that if we don't have enough, then the people that need it may not get the care in a timely fashion."

But there is another issue in how much time as well, because "if a psychiatrist is swamped, he or she may not have enough time to give the patient who needs more time."

Both doctors say the economy's downward spiral has also landed more patients on the couch.

Dr. Hussain says we not only need more psychiatrists here in Amarillo, but in surrounding areas like Borger, Dumas and Pampa.