Editorial: State funding needed to recruit doctors
During election campaigns this year, candidates spent a lot of time talking to voters. In meetings with our editorial board, the candidates cited a number of issues they heard.
Finding primary care physicians and getting in to see specialists were at the top of the list. That comes as no surprise to officials at Beebe Healthcare.
David Herbert, chairman of Beebe’s board of directors, said people tell him they have to wait as long as seven months to see some area specialists.
Rapid growth, especially in the aging population flocking to Sussex, is making it hard for Beebe to keep up with the need for doctors. “The people moving into our area are very knowledgeable about their health,” said Beebe President Jeff Fried. “They want to get in to see specialists when they have a concern. And we’re bringing in as many as 15 new doctors and specialists each year. But we see Sussex students heading off to college and medical school - Jefferson, Johns Hopkins and the Pennsylvania College of Osteopathic Medicine - but they don’t return. We need a hook to bring them back.” Herbert said Beebe is doing all it can to attract new doctors: “I think it’s time for the state to step in and help.”
Fried said the state has a very small grant program available to help doctors pay back education loans. It’s only enough to help a few doctors each year. Primary care physicians can finish their medical school training with student loan debt totaling well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The program is clearly too small to make a dent in the continuing needs, particularly in Sussex County, which has fewer new doctors than Delaware’s other two counties.
Legislators elected in November should make a priority of addressing the issue they heard about most frequently in the campaign. A starting point would be to provide at least ten times more loan assistance and require doctors who receive assistance to practice in Delaware’s areas of greatest need for at least four years.