Doctor Says Oklahoma Physician Shortage Is A 'Health Crisis'

Thursday, September 19th 2019, 8:22 am
By: Tess Maune

The President of the Oklahoma State Medical Association says the state's need for doctors is a health crisis.

You might notice it when you go to schedule an appointment and can't get in to see the doctor for months; it's a frustration shared throughout Oklahoma.

In rural areas, the situation is worse. Long waits would be welcomed because some hospitals have closed.

Oklahoma State Medical Association President, Dr. Larry Bookman, says 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 Brookman. 

He says statistics show most physicians stay close to where they completed their residencies.

Dr. Bookman is lobbying lawmakers for more money for teaching hospitals for residency positions. This year lawmakers approved $62.8 million to go toward just that.

But Bookman says that was to make up for federal funding Oklahoma hospitals lost. And it's just one-time funding; so, Dr. Bookman says it won't produce a significant number of residency positions.

With more hospitals like the OSU facility in Tahlequah coming next year, Bookman says a bigger investment is needed otherwise he says Oklahoma educated medical students will cross state lines and won't return.