The Importance of Treatment Access
Within the state of Georgia, there is a massive shortage of doctors and medical resources in some counties. In a place such as Webster County, there isn’t a doctor in the county at all. For instance, patients have to drive to the nearest main city to get treatment for issues. This means that individuals are delaying doctor visits. This also means that patients are delaying to go see a doctor for a longer period of time. The state of Georgia is now trying to come up with legislation to deal with this issue. An astounding 64 of the 159 counties have no pediatrician . That means children are having limited treatment access to healthcare starting from a young age. In the long run, that means they will most likely value healthcare visits less and see it as normal to not seek care regularly. Everyone should have access to care no matter where they live. People shouldn’t be receiving better care just because they live in a city. Of these same counties 79 out of the 159 have no obstetrician/gynecologist. A total of nine counties have no doctors at all.
Another issue in Georgia is that there is poverty across the state. In Webster County alone 21% of the population lives in poverty. This affects all areas of an individual’s life. It also makes it harder for individuals to seek out care. They may not have the funds to go see a doctor. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated 9% of Webster County households are without a car. This affects individuals who are trying to get treatment. Without a car, it is a lot more difficult to get to treatment that is further away. Most individuals in rural areas are on Medicare or Medicaid. There are also a lot of individuals who have no insurance at all. When seeing patients who are on Medicare or Medicaid doctors are often losing money and only being reimbursed at below cost. Therefore, many doctors leave rural areas to make more money. Many of them can’t afford to operate in rural areas in Georgia.
Limited Treatment Access
With the limited access to care in some parts of the state, Georgia is taking the issue of available care seriously. If people living in these communities have no access to the health care they will be worse off overall. Limited health care access can lead to health issues in the long run. The Georgia Department of Community Health has a scoring system for assessing facilities that are in greater need of doctors. They call these areas HPSA or a Health Professional Shortage Area. A score of between 0 and 26 is given to these facilities with 26 indicating a facility with higher needs. The number is determined by the number of physicians available in that area. It is also determined by the area’s ideal patient to staff ratio.
In the Georgia area, there are currently over eighty facilities with an HPSA score of twenty or higher. Of those thirty-one facilities have a score of twenty-five. This means that these facilities are in desperate need. There are enough resources of care for individuals in that area and at that facility. The Primary Care Office assists communities with this issue. They can help communities with applying for a federal designation that assists with getting health care providers to that area.
The Medical System in Georgia
The lack of available care in Georgia is clearly apparent. Lawmakers have been working to solve this problem for some time now. In 2007 the Senate Study Committee on the shortage of doctors and nurses in Georgia was created. The sole purpose of the committee was to study Georgia’s current medical provider capacity and see how the supply of doctors and nurses can be increased. The committee was also in charge of making any recommendations in terms of legislation to help solve the issue and provide treatment access to Georgia.
The committee found some interesting statistics regarding Georgia and access to care. Overall, Georgia is facing a serious shortage of physicians and nurses. Georgia is growing as a state. It is one of the fastest-growing states in the U.S. However, Georgia also has a population that is ageing and needs access to higher levels of care. The elderly population in Georgia is expected to increase from 9.6% to 15.9% of the total population by 2030. A growing population needs greater care as the elderly run into the health issues related to old age. Without access to care, this population group may run into bigger health issues. There is also a lack of availability when it comes to primary care doctors and core specialists. Recruiting for specialists in the Georgia area is also limited. This means that individuals have limited resources when it comes to specific health issues.
The Aging Workforce
Another issue with medical care in Georgia is the ageing workforce. Not only is there an aging population of patients, but medical professionals are aging as well. The older population of medical providers in Georgia is beginning to retire. The baby boomers are on their way out of the workforce. As this change continues to occur Georgia finds itself with a lack of a workforce. The rate of new doctors and nurses in Georgia continues to decline instead of increase. Georgia ranks 40th in the U.S. for practicing physicians per capita according to the American Medical Association. It is also 42nd in the U.S. for the number of registered nurses per capita. Georgia is in need of a lot of new medical professionals. Otherwise, it will not be about to maintain its current amount of already limited medical professionals. Without the property amount of medical professionals, the available treatment access in the state will continue to decline. This is something that no population should have to deal with. There should be proper medical care available regardless of where an individual lives.
The state of the medical system in Georgia is in a crisis. The Committee overall found that there should be a primary focus on the medical and nursing education systems in Georgia. This includes expanding medical education enrollment and physician residency training. Georgia needs a way to attract more medical professionals to the state. With more medical professionals there will be care available and more treatment access in rural areas.
The Change Georgia Needs
Although Georgia is trying to attract more medical professionals, it continues to struggle. The medical and nursing education systems in Georgia can’t keep up with the pace of the demand. There are still more doctors and nurses needed than what is available. The Physician residency program hasn’t been enhanced to meet the number of students coming into Georgia medical schools. There is a lack of available residencies. The nursing school is facing a shortage as well. Due to retirement and poor salaries, there is a faculty shortage. Without enough faculty, it is very difficult to run a school, let alone increase its capacity to intake new students. If Georgia doesn’t take action now there will be a continued and increasing lack of medical professionals.
The state of Georgia must take action and resolve this issue. Lack of medical care and staff can lead to a number of negative issues for cities and smaller communities. In the long run, the state of Georgia will suffer. This is also an issue when it comes to substance abuse treatment access. Without proper care and resources, many will continue to be in a cycle of addiction.