Report: Nebraska has 13 counties with no primary care doctors

Doctor (MGN)

A report issued by the University of Nebraska Medical Center revealed that there are 13 counties do not have a primary care physician despite an 11 percent increase in the number of physicians in the state over the last 10 years.

The report is called “The Status of the Healthcare Workforce in the State of Nebraska.”

“The health care workforce is an essential component in making Nebraska the healthiest state in the union and timely and accurate data such as this report will help inform initiatives and policies to help address those challenges,” said Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., UNMC Chancellor.

According to a press release, the study used the most recent data from the UNMC Health Professions Tracking Service and the state of Nebraska.

“This report helps to measure the progress we have made in the state in dealing with some of the workforce issues in rural Nebraska and in planning for the future,” said Mike Sitorius, M.D., professor and chair of family medicine in the UNMC College of Medicine.

“Some programs have helped increase the number of rural health professionals, but there still exist substantial recruiting challenges to bolstering the health workforce and access to health care in rural and underserved areas,” said Fernando Wilson, Ph.D., acting director of the UNMC Center for Health Policy and lead author of the report.

The challenges indicated in the study include:

• The reality that nearly one-fifth of physicians in Nebraska are more than 60 years old, and thus likely to retire in the near future;

• 18 of 93 Nebraska counties have no pharmacist; and

• Demographics in many counties are becoming more diverse, but the current health workforce doesn’t necessarily reflect the populations being served.

“In partnership with stakeholders from Scottsbluff to Omaha, we’ve made progress over the years. But the landscape of health care is rapidly changing, and we must remain diligent to sustain the progress we’ve made and close the gaps,” Dr. Wilson said.

The release said the report examined 21 health care professions ranging from physicians and physician assistants to nursing, dental and allied health professionals.

It also looked at the sex, age, race and ethnicity of each health care professional, as well as measured the number and rate of health care professionals per 100,000 people by county.

Other key findings of the report include:

• The number of registered nurses increased 61 percent in 10 years, from 17,335 to 27,922.

• There are now 1,148 nurse practitioners in Nebraska.

• The number of dentists per 100,000 population has decreased slightly from 57.1 to 56.5 over the last 10 years.

• There are nearly 400 more pharmacists and 1,200 more pharmacy technicians now compared to 2009.

• Nebraska currently has nearly 1,400 paramedics available – over 70 percent more than 10 years ago.

• There are substantial gaps in the distribution of allied health professionals across Nebraska, particularly in north central Nebraska, which has virtually no occupational therapists, speech language pathologists or medical nutrition therapists.

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