partlycloudy
Friday May 29th, 2015 6:31PM

Georgia faces doctor shortage in near future

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) Georgia is looking for answers as it confronts a looming shortage of doctors.

Projections show the state will fall about 5,000 physicians short of needed levels by 2030.

The state will be under pressure to loosen its tight restrictions on nurse practitioners and physician assistants to meet demands for care. Such professionals can take some of the load off doctors by seeing patients.

But many doctors oppose changing the rules, which they say helps protect quality patient care. Some physicians have fought for years against state legislation aimed at giving nurse practitioners greater autonomy.

Georgia is currently ranked 41st nationally for its supply of doctors. Already, medical schools are preparing for the transition to a system where health care providers other than doctors play a more vital role in medicine.

Schools are training a range of professionals to employ a team-based approach to health care.

"We have to choose to do what I think the numbers demand," said Dr. Wright Caughman, Emory University's executive vice president for health affairs.

Georgia has some of the nation's most restrictive regulations for health professionals like physician assistants.

Unlike Georgia, some states allow nurse practitioners to order an MRI or prescribe a narcotic without a doctor's approval. Georgia also requires a formal written agreement with a doctor that spells out medical tasks a nurse practitioner can perform.

Other states, including Washington and Arizona, allow nurse practitioners to practice independently without a doctor's oversight.

How states choose to regulate nurse practitioners and other providers is going to be the critical difference in how states make sure their residents have care, said Tay Kopanos, director of health policy for state affairs at the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.

"Unfortunately, a lot of states have not kept pace," Kopanos said. "Provisions put in place decades ago are really no longer protecting the public."

Many doctors in Georgia disagree. Dr. John Moore, an Atlanta obstetrician, said he fears patients won't see physicians as often if at all as professionals other than doctors fill in gaps created by the shortage.

"They are not trained as well as doctors and they're going to miss some stuff, and that's a scary thing to me," he said.

In Georgia, numbers of physician assistants and nurse practitioners have both jumped by nearly 40 percent in the past five years.

By some estimates, the nation will be short 90,000 doctors by 2020.
© Copyright 2015 AccessNorthGa.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Fiscal cliff may determine gas prices at start of 2013
Retail gas prices climb as 2012 comes to end. While gas prices are likely to rise into next year, whether or not a deal is made to avoid the fiscal cliff will determine if prices continue on an upward trend.
6:18AM ( 2 years ago )
Business News
Couch names administrative team
Ahead of his scheduled swearing in Friday, Hall County Sheriff-elect Gerald Couch named his top administrative team Monday.
6:28PM ( 2 years ago )
Tech beats Southern California in Sun Bowl
Tevin Washington threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score to help Georgia Tech beat Southern California 21-7 on Monday in the Sun Bowl.
5:54PM ( 2 years ago )
Hall Co. officials launch health-based initiative for employees
Hall County officials believe healthy county employees will be of greater service to the county. With that in mind, they have created a health-based fitness initiative to provide free fitness training for county workers.
5:46PM ( 2 years ago )
Local/State News
Five injured after pedestrian enters Sardis Rd
Charges are pending against a pedestrian who reportedly caused a car accident on Sardis Road in Hall County.
5:52PM ( 39 minutes ago )
Father: Woman shot by sheriff told Gwinnett police it was an accident
The woman who was shot and critically wounded by a Georgia sheriff told a detective the shooting was an accident that happened while they were practicing self-defense tactics in an empty model home in Gwinnett County, her father said Friday.
3:52PM ( 2 hours ago )
Falcon LB wanted for Aggravated Animal Cruelty
Atlanta Falcons linebacker Prince Shembo is wanted by Gwinnett County Police.
3:51PM ( 2 hours ago )
Lake Russell swimming area reopens, Lake Rabun still closed because of bacteria
One swimming beach is open but another remains closed in north Georgia after U.S. Forest Service officials found elevated levels of fecal coliform bacteria in the water last Saturday.
2:12PM ( 4 hours ago )
Boat involved in fatal accident on Lanier struck rocks before capsizing
A boat involved in a fatal accident on Lake Lanier in March struck "submerged and exposed" rocks before capsizing and trapping a passenger underneath it, resulting in her death.
12:43PM ( 5 hours ago )