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Current physician shortage affects access to care throughout Alaska


October 02, 2006

Alaska needs nearly twice as many physicians in the next 20 years as it currently has if the state is to meet expected demands, a new report shows. The Alaska Physician Supply Task Force said the increase, about 1,100 more than the state's current 1,350 physicians providing patient care, is needed as the state's elderly population triples and as medical practice patterns change.



UA President Mark Hamilton and Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Karleen Jackson commissioned the task force in January to help chart a future course for increasing the number of doctors in the state. The report includes recommendations and strategies the state and UA should take.

For the past 35 years, UAA has been a partner in WWAMI, a regional medical school coordinated by the University of Washington for the states of Washington Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho. WWAMI allows medical students to receive training in their home states.

"Alaska needs to start now to offset the current shortage of physicians in the state, and to reach an adequate number of physicians to provide the care Alaskans will need in 20 years," said Dr. Richard Mandsager state public health director and task force co-chair. "The task force says the physician shortage could become a crisis ? the shortage affects access to care throughout the state, and increases the cost to hospitals and health care organizations."

Goals of the task force included increasing the in-state development of physicians by increasing the number and viability of medical school and residency opportunities in Alaska for Alaskans; increasing physician
recruitment to Alaska by assessing needs and coordinating recruitment efforts, as well as expanding and supporting programs that prepare Alaskans for medical careers; and increasing physician retention by improving the practice environment in Alaska.

"The task force agreed on an array of strategies that, if put into place, will be effective in meeting Alaska's need for physicians," said Dr. Harold Johnston, director of Alaska Family Medicine Residency and task force co-chair. "In the coming months, the state administration, legislature, the university and private and tribal health care providers will work with this roadmap, and find ways we can each contribute to reach our goals."

On the Web:

Task Force Report (PDF 2MB)



Source of News:

Alaska Department of Health & Social Services


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Ketchikan, Alaska