When family physician Lisa Dodson heard that the healthcare clinic in Elgin, Oregon was threatened with closure, she decided to pitch in. Of course, she was in Portland, and Elgin is nearly five hours away. But Elgin residents were going to have to drive to La Grande — 30 miles away — for medical care, so she’s now making the trip regularly while the community raises money to hire a new doctor.
The situation in Elgin is not entirely unique. Oregon as a whole has a physician shortage, and it’s hitting rural parts of the state particularly hard. John Day has lost three of their six family physicians in the last nine months. In Reedsport, on the southern coast, people now need to drive to 40 miles to Coos Bay to have a doctor deliver a baby.
Healthcare officials cite low Medicare reimbursement rates, non-existent caps on medical malpractice claims, a shortage of medical students graduating into general practice, and doctor burnout as just a few of the causes for the shortage of physicians in this state.
What’s your experience trying to get (or provide) healthcare — especially outside the Portland area? Can you find a doctor? How far do you — or your patients — need to drive to have a baby?