Tulsa Woman Describes Struggle To Find Doctor
TULSA, Oklahoma - A doctor shortage in Oklahoma is a growing concern for patients, particularly the elderly. Many doctors are retiring, seeing fewer patients, moving offices, or even refusing to accept Medicare.
The Oklahoma Medical Association says our state ranks 45th in the nation in the number of physicians per capita. We also have an above average number of patients on Medicare.
It could be a growing issue over the years with more patients and fewer available physicians.
Linda Bryant's 80-year-old mother Shirley had been going to a doctor for six years. Shirley got a call saying her appointment was cancelled, and her doctor was no longer with the hospital.
"That really irked me, calling on a late Friday afternoon," Linda Bryant said. "It just makes more stress for an elderly person because [elderly people] do not like changes."
Shirley's appointment was eventually rescheduled with a new doctor but not for another three weeks.
"A lot of doctors don't take new patients and much less, Medicare patients," Bryant said.
The Oklahoma Medical Association says physicians are tired of low reimbursement and all the government red tape. So they opt out of Medicare
"They should have had a doctor available to see the patients that were already scheduled," Bryant said.
The American Medical Association has a Code of Medical Ethics that states patients have the right to the continuity of care.
A doctor can't stop a patient's treatment, as long as more treatment is medically needed, without giving the patient reasonable assistance and a chance to make other arrangements for care.
The Association says moving doctors hasn't been a big issue because many are solo or in small practices.
If a patient is forced to see a new physician it's because their current physician is either retiring or is no longer on that patient's insurance.
"It doesn't just affect the elderly," Bryant said. "It affects everybody."
The Oklahoma State Board of Medical Licenses has some guidelines in Oklahoma if a doctor closes or relocates their office. But there aren't actually any rules or regulations.