Finding solutions to fight Hawaii’s physician shortage

Sponsored by University Health Partners of Hawaii & John A. Burns School of Medicine

Hawaii suffers from a worsening doctor shortage. If you compare the number of physicians in Hawaii to the average utilization of physicians across the country, the state is short nearly 800 doctors. HI Now host Kanoe Gibson sat down with Dr. Kelley Withy to talk about solutions to fight the shortage.

Dr. Withy says primary care makes up almost half the total shortage. She says many pediatricians in Honolulu can’t find primary care doctors to hand their patients off to once they become adults. The shortage is even more apparent on neighbor islands where patients don’t even have access to certain specialty doctors. Hawaii Island has the largest shortage across the state at over 40 percent.

Right now, many solutions are in the works to help bridge the gap. Dr. Withy says more doctors need to be trained, especially those from Hawaii and from areas of highest need because students will often return home to practice. Dr. Withy’s office does its part by promising to assist any student who wants to go into a health profession.

In addition, there are also scholarships to help with school. Dr. Witty says her office administers loan repayment to those who will work in areas of need. She’s also working with the Department of Health and University Health Partners to create smooth telemedicine use, the practice of caring for patients remotely.

Not only is the John A. Burns School of Medicine expanding its training by sending students out into rural areas, but residents are also spending more time in these areas as well. Dr. Withy says the family medicine residents from Oahu work in VAs across the region and that there’s a growing residency in Hilo helping to meet the primary care need on Hawaii Island. Most recently, University Health Partners of Hawaii opened an OBGYN clinic in Hilo. The physicians there not only see patients and provide high quality care, but are also faculty members of the medical school and help train future physicians through both medical school and residency.

For more information: http://www.ahec.hawaii.edu/, uhphawaii.org, @UHPHawaii