Think About It: Is There A Doctor In The House? - KFVE, K5-Hawaii News Now, Local Programming

October 5, 2017

Think About It: Is There A Doctor In The House?

On the heels of my editorial earlier this week about thenow-annual teacher shortage we face in Hawaii comes the now-annual reminderthat we also have a worsening doctor shortage throughout our state. Accordingto the University of Hawaii Physician Workforce Assessment, our islands are nowshort by 769 doctors, a figure that is up 9% from last year's assessment of ourmedical needs providers. Certain specialties are woefully under-staffedthroughout the state, especially on Neighbor Islands and in rural areas.

Primary care physicians, neurosurgeons, infectious diseasespecialists, rheumatologists, colorectal surgeons- just a few of the areaswhere the needs are not being met.  TheHonolulu Star-advertiser reported that while we have over 9,000 licensedphysicians here, only 3,500 are actually practicing. The high cost of living,lower pay relative to other states, confusing rules and regulations, concernsabout school quality- it all comes into play. One suggestion is to provide morestate-funded helicopters to quickly medivac people out from understaffed areasto get them the help they need, which is sadly unavailable in far too manyareas. Imagine having a traumatic head injury on the Big Island, and there issimply no one there with the expertise to help. That's reality. Imagine waitingsix-months or longer to see a specialist. Emergency rooms are already weigheddown.

Our islands are often referred to as a paradise, butsometimes the slow movement to address problems make it seem like a third worldresurrection project. Our lack of doctors and teachers needs to be addressedwith a sense of urgency and precision. Incentives need to be put in place andsmart answers are needed now if we want a better future and some assurances forour kids, our ailing loved ones, and ourselves. Think about it…

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