Arizona bill aims to alleviate state’s shortage of doctors and nurses

Mar 4, 2019, 4:45 AM | Updated: Mar 5, 2019, 4:26 pm
(Pixabay Photo)...
(Pixabay Photo)
(Pixabay Photo)

PHOENIX — Arizona Sen. Heather Carter says she introduced Senate Bill 1354 in an effort to combat the state’s widespread shortage of doctors and nurses.

“This is a critical opportunity for Arizona to address those issues and try to come up with a solution that works for the state,” Carter told KTAR News 92.3 FM last week.

“I think it’s really important for us to focus on priority issues like this in this next budget cycle when we have available dollars.”

The shortage of health care professionals in the state isn’t new, according to Debbie Johnston, senior vice president of policy development at the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association.

“There’s a severe shortage of physicians and other health care workers in Arizona. This has been going on for several years,” Johnston told KTAR News 92.3 FM last week.

Arizona has a particular shortage in primary care and places 44th out of all states on number of active primary care physicians, she said.

She said there are 78 primary care physicians per 100,000 Arizonans compared to the national average of 92, and in rural Arizona, that number drops to 59.

Senate Bill 1354, it will really help us address these shortages by allocating $20 million in state funds for graduate medical education with a goal of targeting geographic areas of greatest need. This would include rural counties, specifically,” Johnston said.

The bill also includes funding for community college and university medical training programs and medical loan repayment plans for physicians who work in underserved communities.

“If individuals commit to staying in Arizona once they gradate and they apply for these programs, then they will be able to receive loan forgiveness and loan repayment,” Carter said.

“That allows us to incentivize individuals to work in our state in high-needs areas.”

Carter said she is confident that, if passed, the bill would make a significant impact.

“The whole package together will really move the needle forward in a very assertive way, and I think that’s good for the state,” she said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Nailea Leon and Peter Samore contributed to this report. 

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Arizona bill aims to alleviate state’s shortage of doctors and nurses