Nevada struggling with doctor shortage

LAS VEGAS - Nevada ranks fourth worst out of 50 states when it comes to the number of doctors per capita.

Two of Nevada's representatives on Capitol Hill are trying to change that and hoping to bump the state's standing higher up on that list.

Representatives Ruben Kihuen and Jacky Rosen are co-sponsoring a bill that would boost federal funding to provide more residency opportunities for new doctors nationwide including in the Las Vegas area.

One of the goals is to keep the doctors who will be produced by UNLV and other programs.

"I just moved out here two months ago for my residency training," said Kristina Laguerre, a resident physician.

She sees a need in southern Nevada for doctors. That's why she chose to move across the country to serve her residency in Las Vegas.

"There's a lot of different opportunities, particularly in primary care, for us to find positions throughout the state of Nevada," she said.

How many opportunites?

Experts say Nevada is about 3,000 doctors short just to get to the middle of the road when it comes to the number of doctors per 10,000 patients.

"Part of the reason why we are in that position is that we haven't really made the serious investment in our medical, health care system," said Rep. Ruben Kihuen, (D) Nevada.

He one of 38 members of Congress to sign onto House Resolution 2267.

It's a bill that would boost Medicare funding to provide 15,000 new physician residency opportunities nationwide over the next five years.

Representative Jacky Rosen is also co-sponsoring the bill.

"One of the caveats is that it's going to increase medical residencies for newly-opened medical schools, and we have a newly-opened medical school right now," said Rep. Jacky Rosen, (D) Nevada.

That's good news for UNLV's School of Medicine whose first 60 students started classes just a few weeks ago.

The school's chief of staff hopes in four years there will be enough residencies in Nevada for all of them.

"We want them to choose Las Vegas, we want them to choose Nevada, and we want them to be our permanent physicians in the future," said Maureen Schafer, chief of staff, UNLV School of Medicine.

Laguerre says that's the direction she's leaning right now.

"I can already see myself staying here past residency."

Enrollment in medical schools nationwide continues to grow every year, but the number of residencies needed for doctors to complete their studies is not keeping up with demand.

By 2030, studies predict a shortage of more than 100,000 doctors in the United States if the number of residencies does not increase.


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