BULLOCH COUNTY, Ga., (WSAV)- Thousands of Georgians are forced to drive to another county or even farther to find a doctor. That’s because of the lack of physicians in some rural areas of the state. Now one medical school is proposing a program that could remedy that.
Dr. David Hess dean for the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University says the proposal would shorten the time it takes to become a doctor. It would take a year off of both medical school and residency, making it a total of 6 years.
Dr. Hess said the program is also looking at paying off the tuition of physicians who choose to take this path, but only if they agree to work in certain areas.
“You sign up and it’s kind of a two-for-one. You get free years of tuition but you have to practice in an underserved area for six years” Dr. Hess said.
He also said that the people going into this program would be specialized in primary care such as family medicine because he added in some rural areas, those are the kinds of doctors needed most.
“Certain counties don’t have a physician. Many counties don’t have an obstetrician, gynecologist and actually, there’s very few specialists,” Dr. Hess said.
News 3 searched “family medicine” doctors in the American Medical Association database for counties surrounding savannah.
In these 13 counties: Montgomery, Evans, Candler, McIntosh, Screven, Jeff Davis, Long, Appling, Emanuel, Tattnall, Toombs, Wayne, Bryan, there’s a population of about 245,000 people.
The ama database lists only 48 family medicine doctors practicing throughout those 13 counties. That’s one doctor for about every 5,000 people and this doesn’t take into account distances.
News 3 showed this information to one Bulloch County resident, James Byrd, and he was shocked. Byrd said more should be done to help rural areas and this proposal could be a start. He also thinks more should be done to serve Brooklet, where according to the American Medical Asociation there’s only one doctor.
“Having more doctors facilitates a lot of the medical need more rapidly then having someone having to travel to the city if they have a need. Or, if they’re referred to a physician rather than having to travel into Statesboro, they’re right here,” Byrd said.
Dr. Hess told News 3 the proposal has been taken to state lawmakers and will hopefully be passed either this legislative session or the next one.