Doctor shortage in eastern Washington - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Doctor shortage in eastern Washington

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Local hospitals and state reprentatives say the need for doctors is large in Eastern Washington, and the shortage is only going to get worse if changes aren't made. Local hospitals and state reprentatives say the need for doctors is large in Eastern Washington, and the shortage is only going to get worse if changes aren't made.
SPOKANE, Wash. -

Local hospitals and state representatives say the need for doctors is large in Eastern Washington, and the shortage is only going to get worse if changes aren't made.

Currently, half of Washington's physicians are in King County. In 18 of 39 Washington's counties, there are only 10 or fewer physicians per population. This leaves primary physicians with 2,000 to 2,500 hundred patients on average.

Representatives also say more training options are needed. A lack of training opportunities is forcing thousands of students to go out of state because there isn't room for them in Washington programs.

"Each year we have nearly 4,000 qualified medical applicants, but our state can only accommodate 120 graduates. There are nine other states that graduate fewer physicians than Washington, and interesting enough five of them don't even have medical schools. Our current system isn't working. We need to do something better," said Rep. Marcus Riccelli.

Another reason for the doctor shortage is that doctors are retiring faster than medical schools can train the next generation.

State representatives say in order to keep up with the current rate of doctors retiring, Washington will need 1,700 additional doctors in primary care in the next 16 years.

That's a 32 percent increase from the current levels.

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