Demand for Doctors Around Valley Expected to Worsen

LAS VEGAS -- For many, it's already difficult to get face time with your primary care physician. If you think now is bad, the demand for doctors around southern Nevada is only expected to get worse.

That's due in part because of a growing population, but also because more people will be insured under the Affordable Care Act, also referred to as "Obamacare."

Dr. James Sanchez, who practices in the valley, has two sons in medical school. He said they will have very different careers than his.

"A doctor's time will be more of a planner, and you'll see the role of a nurse practitioner and physicians' assistants will be carrying out the plans of the physician," said Sanchez.

Sanchez admits his office can barely keep up with the hiring of young, qualified doctors.

"I think there will be tremendous problems with facetime with a doctor," he said. 

More troubling, the valley already has a nurse and doctor shortage.

Patients like Julie Velez know that all too well. "They're booked like every month when I go in. They tell me, 'schedule now for next month. Exactly 30 days or you're not going to get in,'" she said.

A study recently published in "Health Affairs" projects a nearly 10 percent population growth by 2025.

That's led some doctors to already begin preparing.

"We see 600,000 to 700,000 visits a year in the company and we've added 8 new primary care practitioners," said Dr. Bard Coats of Healthcare Partners.

Coats said the staff will be ready by January, when more people will be insured under "Obamacare."

One step further, Dr. Sanchez wonders who will one day take his place. "We're just not able to keep up with recruitment," he said. 

There is a silver lining, however. Sanchez said medical school enrollment is currently at an all-time high, so physicians could soon fill our doctor demand. There will also be an increased need for specialists over the next decade.

In Nevada, the need for cardiologists is expected to jump more than 50 percent, according to the study in "Health Affairs."


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