MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — Today, state leaders plan to announce a new bill titled the Physician Workforce Act.
The bill is aimed at addressing Alabama’s doctor shortage and strengthening the physician workforce.
Bill sponsor Senator April Weaver told CBS 42 that retirement rates are rising in the field. She said backfill is needed, but it takes long time to educate and train a physician.
So, this bill will look to adjust various requirements to make the process of joining the medical field more timely.
“It takes a long time to educate and train a physician and we just want to get ahead of the curve with these innovative concepts to make sure that we have a very strong physician led healthcare team so that people in Alabama have access to great healthcare,” said Senator Weaver.
Some of those new concepts include changing postgraduate residency training from three to two years, removing a certain examination requirement for some, and creating an apprenticeship-like program for residents who don’t match with a medical school on the first try.
State leaders also say a top reason for the deficit is physician burnout.
Local physician, Dr. Celeste Reese-Willis, tells me the realities of physician burnout can weigh very heavy on those in the medical field.
Dr. Reese-Willis said the COVID-19 pandemic was tough on the healthcare industry as a whole. She said physicians were treating patients in environments that were not typical.
Dr. Reese- Willisa also said reimbursement from insurance companies for the services physicians provide is not as good as they used to be in addition to work- life balance being hard to handle as a physician.
“It’s a very, very tall responsibility because you’re basically dedicating your life to the field,” said Reese Willis. “A lot of times the return that you get is not stacked as high as you probably thought it would be, but you have to continue to do it and remember the purpose of why you went into it to begin with.”
Dr. Reese-Willis said she is encouraged by the Physician Workforce Act and the fact that someone is actively doing something to help with the shortage.
Niko Corley with the Medical Association of Alabama told CBS 42 the need for a bill like this is critical to ensure more physician availability.
Although he did not know an exact number of physician’s that are needed throughout the state, Corley said Alabama is below the national average.
So, he said each approach we can take that’s innovative and creative that maintains quality care first and foremost, will help chip away at the overall deficit.
Corley said the actions of this bill would allow opportunities to train those physicians who want to be the physicians of tomorrow but haven’t had a chance yet.
“If you’re the patient that has a hard time finding a physician or access to a physician led care team, then it’s a big issue,” said Corley. “And each of these approaches will help ensure that physicians are in those places and able to, whether it’s a rural community or somewhere else where there’s and underserved group of individuals. This can help work towards each of those goals.”
The bill was filed last week and will be in the Senate and house health committee Wednesday.