Lawmakers present plan to address Alabama’s growing physician shortage

WAFF's Megan Plotka reporting
Published: Apr. 12, 2023 at 7:22 AM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Some Alabama lawmakers want to address the growing physician shortage happening across the state. State Senator April Weaver sponsored a bill that takes a multi-faceted approach to the shortage.

Weavers and State Representative Paul Lee presented the full plan at a news conference at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at the State House.

SB 155 or the Physician Workforce Act was introduced to the Senate Healthcare Committee in early April and is currently awaiting a vote. Associate Dean for Primary Care and Rural Health at UAB, Dr. Irfan Asif says the state will have a shortage of over 600 primary care providers by 2030.

State Sen. Weaver says her bill will help close these gaps with its three-prong attack that will try to attract and retain doctors.

“It’s very important for us to grow our own here in Alabama so we’re going to be doing very innovative concepts to make sure that we give Alabamians the best access to physician-led care,” said State Sen. Weaver.

She says the first prong is streamlining the process for already practicing physicians to work in Alabama. The Medical Association of the State of Alabama’s Director of Government Relations Niko Corley says Alabama is one of the few states that doesn’t accept medical licenses from other states.

Under the current law in Alabama, physicians had to get their medical license in Alabama within 10 years of graduating or they have to be board certified. They want doctors who are licensed in any other state to be able to come to Alabama and begin working immediately.

“If they have a license in good standing in another state in this country and they want to move to Alabama, we want to take every obstacle away from them coming and making that decision to practice,” said Corley. “If they’re good doctors in another state, we want them to come and be good doctors in Alabama.”

Next, State Sen. Weaver wants to allow medical professionals who pass all their tests but don’t match for a residency to be able to help out physicians in Alabama. They want to open an apprenticeship program to help fill workforce shortages at places like rural urgent clinics.

The third prong is employing more international medical graduates, that’s any doctor who graduated from a medical school outside of the United States. They want those graduates to be able to get their license after two years of residency rather than three.

“During that final year of residency, that third year, they moonlight in overcrowded hospital emergency rooms or to help man a rural health clinic or urgent care somewhere where they can’t currently work if they don’t have a residency rotation through there,” said Corley.

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