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Report says Hawaii has critically low number of doctors
Jan 16

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) _ A physician shortage on Hawaii Island is approaching a critical state, falling short of the number required by the population, a new report said.

A University of Hawaii Physician Workforce Assessment Project report said the Big Island has 230, or 44%, fewer doctors than necessary, West Hawaii Today reported Wednesday.

The report submitted Jan. 9 to the Legislature said the island needs at least 528 doctors.

There is a 24% shortage across the state, with only 2,974 doctors in a population that needs 3,483 physicians, the report said.

The report written by Dr. Kelley Withy concluded the biggest shortage area statewide is primary care physicians, a field in which 276 full-time equivalent positions remain open.

Primary care physicians are normally the initial point of contact for patients seeking nonemergency care.

Hawaii Island has a shortage of 47 primary care physicians and 12 specialty positions with a shortage rate of 80% or greater, the report said.

One of the leading reasons for the physician shortage is low reimbursement rates compared to the state's cost of living, according to the Hawaii Medical Association.

The professional membership organization for physicians, resident physicians and medical students did an internal study of Medicare reimbursement rates in 87 regions nationwide.

``It clearly shows that Hawaii is underpaid for its cost of living by about 35%, which is significant,'' said Dr. Christopher Flanders, the association executive director.

Hawaii's congressional delegation signed a letter to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services asking for consideration of a geographic adjustment, which is calculated every three years, he said. Other states, such as Alaska, have succeeded in securing increased reimbursement rates.

``The problem is compounded by the cost of living here,`` Flanders said. ``Students are coming out of medical school with tremendous student loans, and they have to pay them off and do what's best for them and their family, so staying here becomes difficult.''

By The Associated Press, Copyright 2019

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