LITTLE ROCK, AR -- According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, Arkansas ranks second in the nation with doctor shortages. The study puts the patient-to-doctor ratio at 169 residents to one doctor per 100,000 people.
Paul Cunningham at the Arkansas Hospital Association says the shortage is visible in the rural parts of the state.
"For those physicians who locate to the rural areas, they're very committed to wanting to help those communities, people who live in those communities. Many times they came from a community like that themselves," Cunningham said.
And then there's the Medicare reimbursement factor. Medicare payments to Arkansas doctors are the lowest in the country.
"A physician can do essentially the same thing in Missouri, Tennessee or Texas probably and his Medicare reimbursement will be better than in Arkansas," Cunningham said.
Cunningham said it takes hospital CEOs several months to find a doctor who will locate to the smaller hospitals. In order for the numbers to get better, Cunningham said hospital administrators will have to call on city and county leaders for help recruiting and retaining doctors.
"It's going to take a full community to come together to provide incentives or some reason to make their communities to make physicians want to locate there," Cunningham said.