Letters to the Editor

Barinaga letter: Physician shortage

Winston Churchill once said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Idaho, we have a crisis: a severe physician workforce shortage.

The good news is that our Legislature is considering a 10-year plan to increase physician residency training in Idaho. Without completing a residency, physicians cannot become licensed to practice medicine. Up to 75 percent of physicians practice within a short distance of where they complete their residency. If fully executed, this plan will more than double the number of resident physicians graduating in Idaho. This would result in many more doctors for Idaho.

Idaho currently has more medical students graduating per year than there are residency positions in Idaho for them to train in. This forces some medical school graduates to go out of state to complete their training. In addition, the Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine is currently accepting its first class and plans to produce 150 graduates per year. Rather than retaining those graduates in Idaho, Idaho will become a major net-exporter of physicians if residency training is not significantly expanded.

Our Legislature has a rare opportunity to address this urgent need for physicians in Idaho. The time is now. Let us not waste this crisis.

Mary Barinaga, M.D., Boise