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Why Arizona is facing a huge doctor shortage, and how a bill aims to fix that

Posted at 9:56 PM, Mar 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-28 16:53:35-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona is facing a statewide primary care physician shortage, and the problem is expected to get worse over the next 10 years.

Senate Bill 1354 is being moved through the state legislature that could help alleviate the shortage that's affected all counties.

Research from the University of Arizona Center for Rural Health ranks Arizona near the bottom nationally.

"So many medical students come out in such huge debt, that they have to go look sometimes for the money, rather than the location," Rick Anderson, the Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Tucson Medical Center said.

The doctor shortage is just one part of the problem. The other part is getting physicians out into rural areas, like Santa Cruz and Cochise Counties, where the shortages are even worse.

"You really have to be driven to really want to practice in rural areas, no matter where you are in America," Anderson said. "It really is something that you sometimes have to be called to do."

An estimated 563 physicians are needed right now to eliminate the state's shortages. By 2030, that number is expected to jump to 1,941.

Senate Bill 1354 would help tackle the shortages, if approved. It'd split $50 million between five programs to entice doctors who train in Arizona to stay.

Funding would go toward residency and medical programs, loan forgiveness, and nurse training.

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