Doctor Shortage, More Patients Plague Nevada Medicine - 8 News NOW

Doctor Shortage, More Patients Plague Nevada Medicine

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LAS VEGAS - Nevada is facing a shortage of doctors that experts say will worsen as tens of thousands of people become newly insured under the Affordable Care Act.

Patients are currently waiting at least three weeks to see their primary care physicians. Doctors expect that wait-time to get longer.

Experts say there aren't enough doctors willing to start up a practice in Nevada, since the costs of medical care have increased. Doctors say because Nevada law doesn't allow hospitals to directly hire doctors, they are forced to start primary practices in order to practice medicine in the state. That cost is another factor driving new doctors away from Las Vegas.

The lack of extensive medical education in Nevada also plays a part in the shortage. Most public medical schools in Nevada can be found in Reno, leaving southern Nevada to depend on small, private colleges like Touro University.

The shortage is affecting availability of primary care doctors and specialty care.

Instead of seeing a primary care doctor, patients are turning to quick care clinics. The wait hasn't been quick, however, since these clinics are dealing with the overflow of patients who couldn't see their primary care physicians.

"It's hard to see a doctor, period. I got my son in there with an ear infection, and he's been waiting for almost two hours," said parent Gordon Burch.

"If that's the way it is, that's the way it is. I think this country has a real problem with what they're doing with the health care," added patient Diana Record.

Many believe expanded health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act that will take effect next year will make matters worse.

Some physicians are prioritizing their patient list – offering to see patients who pay a concierge fee sooner than those who don't.

The fee can cost patients between $1,300 to $5,000 a year in addition to normal health care costs. Some patients say the fee is worth it to see their doctor when they need to.

While not every doctor charges that fee, some are aware their colleagues are charging it.

"When a certain sum of money is paid to the practice, then it appears patients have access to their physicians' quicker," said Dr. Bashab Banerji.

Many patients say they would rather wait long hours at a quick care clinic than wait months for a primary care physician who charges more to be seen.

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