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Paging More Doctors: California’s Worsening Physician Shortage

 September 3, 2019 at 11:04 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Access to primary health care is a fundamental need, but that access may be more challenging in the years to come. For most Californians, the state is on a precipice of a huge doctor shortage by 2030 researchers say the state could be down more than 10,000 primary care providers, including nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Inner cities and rural areas are already feeling the squeeze and it's going to get worse as part of our California dream collaboration. Elizabeth, Avalara of cal matters reports. Speaker 2: 00:34 Are you short of breath all the time or just when you get up and move around? Yes, sometimes comes and goes [inaudible]. Okay. Speaker 3: 00:42 Dr Dan Dalley visits match Hasbro in the hospital where she's in longterm care. The 88 year old former operating room nurse used to work with dally. Speaker 2: 00:52 I didn't work in there for 34 years and I'm a family practice physician. Speaker 3: 00:57 Dolly cares for thousands of patients at the big valley health center in a part of the state where so few people live that it is considered [inaudible] Speaker 2: 01:04 frontier land. This valley is about as beautiful place you can get from his car. He pointed out the landmarks, you could see Mount Lassen over there in that direction and now Chaz to here you can see two of the most beautiful mountains on the planet and all this area, farming and water and lakes out here and it used to be that this place would recruit itself, Speaker 3: 01:27 not anymore. More is 71 and has postponed his retirement over and over again waiting for a new doctor to arrive. His situation is not unique. High Medical School debt pushes future doctors towards specialties that pay more and new primary care doctors tend to practice in bigger cities, near medical centers or for large medical groups. It's a problem in the inner city too though. Not just agricultural meccas or bucolic settings with mountain views. Speaker 4: 01:56 It's difficult to find anyone in this area, but specifically doctors because there are, the shortage is everywhere. Speaker 3: 02:06 Shannon Garrick is CEO of mountain valleys, health centers Speaker 4: 02:08 and then we have a problem because we're so remote and rural, so often providers will come on site to visit and they will say, oh well we didn't know that it was this rural. Speaker 3: 02:20 An added challenge in rural counties is that doctors have to be able to do a lot. Dolly Man's the Big Valley Health Center in Bieber does a 24 hour shift in the emergency room at the nearby hospital every week and does patient rounds most mornings at the hospital. Speaker 2: 02:35 You have to be able to fly by the seat of your pants at times you have to think on the run and you sometimes have to do things that are out of the ordinary. Speaker 3: 02:45 He's done it all from delivering babies to saving people out in the woods. Dolly is a local celebrity of sorts up here. Friends and patients greet him everywhere he goes in the area, the market, the bar, restaurants, Speaker 2: 03:00 what are you Speaker 3: 03:03 wait when they pass him on the road. That's why it's been so hard for dally to retire right now. He's got his eye on a young Doctor Cup. Speaker 2: 03:11 Well, a lady who is in her third year of Ob Gyn residency at UC Davis and her husband is a family practice resident. We'll, we're trying to recruit him back up here because that will be when I retire. Speaker 3: 03:26 Sounds perfect. Except for one very big snag. The local hospital closed its obstetric department a few years ago, and dally has been pushing hard to reopen it. Women in these parts travel more than 100 miles to deliver. One recent morning, Dolly and patient will much Hasbro reminisced about their friendship. Speaker 2: 03:45 How many years did we work together? She's going to say, too many working with you, we had fundamentally, yes we did. Speaker 3: 03:54 It's important to dally to leave his patients in good hands. Speaker 2: 03:57 They're part of my family and they ski. That's what I do. Get a little tearful, but you know, because I've had so many people praise me and stuff. I mean, I don't need all the gratification and all that stuff, but I'm so honored by the fact that they think that I'm a good doctor, Speaker 3: 04:23 good doctors that are increasingly hard to find, not just in rural California, but across the state. And if nothing changes, that means longer wait times for patients traveling further to see a doctor or skipping care altogether from Bieber, California. I'm Elizabeth AG. Dulera.

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In a northern California valley stretching under miles of bright blue sky between two snowy volcanic peaks, Mt. Lassen and Mt. Shasta, Daniel Dahle is known as a godsend, a friend, a lifesaver, a companion until the end.
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