AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) -The demand for physicians continues to grow with new data showing that The Panhandle is seeing a shortage of health providers compared to the rest of the state.
After speaking with local physicians, they said that the U.S. is projected to have a shortfall of up to 122,000 doctors by 2030, attributing it to population growth and patients.
“There are a lot of drivers for physician shortages across the country, one of them is just the aging of the population," said Texas Tech School of Medicine Professor and Regional Chair Rodney Young. "As we have done a better job with different aspects in medicine, like cardiovascular disease treatment, diabetes treatment, cancer care, our life expectancy has grown.”
The research shows that across the state of Texas there is an average of one primary care provider for every 1,600 people, but in the Texas Panhandle there is one health care provider for every 3,100 individuals.
“As long as I can remember we have had a shortage of physicians in The Panhandle, we’ve had a shortage in primary care, but then also a lot of specialties,” said Northwest Texas Healthcare System Chief Medical Officer Brian Weis.
On average, 15% of Texas residents live in rural areas. In the High Plains, more than 58% of people live in rural areas.
Amarillo is considered a regional economic and medical hub, however for many High Plains residents, it is located more than 50 miles away making it a struggle to hire and keep doctors in those areas.
Dr. Weis says they are trying different approaches to recruit.
“Our first thing is that we collaborate very well and closely with Texas Tech. They have a lot of residents and students, a lot of bright young minds, and we try to keep them to hire. And second, we do our own recruiting,” said Dr. Weis.
“The most important predictor of where physicians will practice, is where they do their residency or their final stage of medical training. Having positions to train locally is important," said Young. "The State of Texas saw this coming as well and passed some additional funding on the state level to help with expansion of residency.”
As it takes years to train a doctor, they said Congress needs to remove the freeze on federal funding for residency training that has been in place since the Clinton administration.