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Coastal Bend experiencing doctor shortage

Doctor Shortage in Coastal Bend
Posted at 5:23 PM, Oct 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-05 18:56:43-04

Getting in to see a doctor in the Coastal Bend isn't always such an easy task. It's led to more people showing up to the ER for minor care, which creates a problem.

But the real problem is the lack of doctors choosing to make the Coastal Bend home.

"We're not seeing enough new doctors coming in, especially in primary care and also specialty care. We're short in all areas," Dr. Mary Peterson with the Nueces County Medical Society said.

Dr. Roger Timperlake worked as a Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon at Driscoll Children's Hospital for 29 years.

When doctors like him call it quits, it leaves a gap that's not getting filled. Or at least not fast enough.

"At Driscoll I can say from experience, we lost many fine doctors because the wife, the spouse or the family members weren't quite happy in Corpus Christi," Timperlake said.

The pandemic has also contributed to the shortages.

Peterson said there are plenty of doctors graduating medical school.

Hospital administrators are looking to increase their residency programs and the numbers of doctors who attend them, in hopes of retaining more doctors in the Coastal Bend.

However, there are other issues.

"Some of the insurance companies have now bought up practices of some of the family doctors and internal medicine doctors and then they close that practice to only people who have that insurance," Peterson said.

As medical costs get more expensive, the payouts by Medicare and Medicaid remain the same, cutting into doctor profits and leading some doctors to not accept all patients.

Doctors like Timperlake are aware of the shortages and choose to work longer hours.

"When I first came here, I was the only Pediatric Orthopedic Surgeon south of San Antonio," he said. "For a couple of years, I worked 24/7, 365."

As the Coastal Bend manages this shortage, health administrators are looking to recruit more physicians and new ways to retain doctors.

Hospital officials also encourage residents to avoid the emergency room if they're not facing any serious health issues.