Study: Current physician shortfall will grow if changes not made

Published On: Apr 14 2012 03:12:58 PM HST   Updated On: Apr 16 2012 05:46:50 AM HST

Hawaii's doctor shortage has long been a problem. But there is now hard data that show just how severe the shortfall is.  According to the report findings from the 2012 Hawaii Physician Workforce Assessment project, the shortage is predicted to only get worse.

Hawaii right now is in need of 600 doctors, when compared to communities of the same size on the mainland.

And if changes are not made soon, Hawaii's shortfall will double by 2020.

The good thing is the shortage hasn't increased in the past two years.

"Maybe the economy has kept people practicing longer or maybe we're just keeping doctors better, but we're still about 600 short," said Dr. Kelley Withy, UH Manoa John A. Burns School of Medicine professor. 

Data complied from licensed physicians show 65 percent of Hawaii's doctors are in solo practice or small groups, which is higher than on the mainland.
And 20 percent of local doctors are full and not taking new patients.

Although there is a significant need for doctors in specialized fields such as cardiology and neurological surgery, the greatest shortage is for doctors who provide primary care service.

With said the solution to the shortage requires the help on multiple levels. She said steps are being made to solve the shortfall, including creating a coordinated care system and making changes to malpractice laws.

"By having more of a discussion on what happened, not blaming. So we're doing small steps in that area," said Withy.

That alone, can be enough to deter future doctors from entering the field.

"That's a tough thing, especially with the piling student loans and the realities we have to face as future health professionals," said Thomas Gill, first year UH medical student. "It's a lot to thing about."

But the need for doctors may be a good thing for current UH med school students.

"I  think that it's good that we as students will be able to fill that void in the future, because there are 60 of us who are really aspiring to be really good doctors," said UH medical school class of 2014 student Sean Matsuwaka.


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