Senate bill aims to address physician shortages in Alabama

Published: Apr. 13, 2023 at 6:54 AM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - A bill moving through the Senate aims to address the shortage of physicians in Alabama.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. April Weaver, R-District 14, and Rep. Paul Lee, R- District 86, will streamline the process so out-of-state physicians can more easily relocate and practice in Alabama. It seeks to reduce barriers so international medical graduates can help staff overcrowded hospitals and creates an apprenticeship-like program for medical school graduates who are waiting to get placed into a residency program.

According to the Medical Association of Alabama, the bill will specifically:

  • Cut red tape and remove unnecessary barriers- The bill would make it easier for physicians who practice out-of-state to move to Alabama by removing a requirement for an additional in-person examination.
  • Better utilize the state’s existing physician workforce- By allowing international medical graduates to apply for a medical license a full year earlier during their training, the bill would help physicians recruit and all international medical graduates to get to work sooner, filling overnight shifts in hospitals or busy clinics.
  • Create an apprenticeship-like program- Alabama would join nearly 10 other states that allow graduate physicians to increase their clinical knowledge and skills under the supervision of licensed physicians as they prepare to reapply to residence positions while helping to fill staffing shortages.

“We want to build tomorrow’s physician workforce and confront today’s physician shortage,” said Weaver.

Doctor Mark LeQuire says the physician workforce is vanishing.

“For some reason, we’re seeing more patients than we’ve ever seen and they’re sicker than we’ve ever seen,” LeQuire said. “But the problem that goes hand in hand with that is that we don’t have any physicians to treat them.”

As the managing partner of one of the largest radiology groups in Central Alabama LeQuire said the last time they were fully staffed was December of 2021.

“I’m down six physicians I’ve tried furiously over the past three months to recruit to fill that I interviewed six people, my group did, we got one,” LeQuire added.

LeQuire and other doctors with the medical association of the state of Alabama stood with lawmakers to share their support of a new bill, the physician Workforce Act. Weaver and Lee say the goal is to address the shortage and ensure Alabamians are getting quality care.

“It’s the bill that we need, because it provides immediate relief. And the mechanisms by which it does that it makes it simpler for us to recruit physicians to the state of Alabama. It takes a physician work pool that we have already and gets them involved in patient care health care ahead of their training schedules. And it creates a new apprenticeship category for physicians so they can work with supervising physicians and begin to render care. We can wait on national organizations to solve this problem for us or we can do what we do in the great state of Alabama do it best and that’s solve it ourselves,” LeQuire said.

The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates 124,000 more physicians will be needed by 2034, with the largest gap among specialists.

The bill, which passed out of Senate committee Wednesday, will move to the full Senate for debate.

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