While the nation’s physician shortage looks grim, things are much worse in Arizona, according to a leading health care work force expert who visited the Valley on Saturday.
Dr. Richard “Buzz” Cooper addressed board members of the new A.T. Still University of Health Sciences in east Mesa, calling for more residency programs and a 40 percent increase in physicians over the next few decades.
“We’re not going to have enough physicians,” said Cooper, a professor and researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. “We’re getting older as a group and are getting much less work per physician.”
Cooper has predicted a shortage of up to 200,000 physicians across the United States by 2020.
But compared to the rest of the nation, the needs in Arizona are much greater, he said.
“Arizona has previously been able to depend on bringing in doctors from elsewhere, but now those places you might get doctors from are in short supply,” he said.
The state’s population boom also is a factor. The East Valley alone adds 50,000 residents per year. Three new hospitals are planned in the East Valley to solve a bedspace shortage, but experts are now concerned about how to fill the hospitals with physicians — especially specialists such as cardiologists, radiologists and anesthesiologists.
“There isn’t enough,” Cooper said. “Technology has grown faster than the number of people.”
There also is a lack of residency programs and medical schools in Arizona.
“People tend to stay where they are trained,” Cooper said. “The new hospitals will hopefully develop residency programs, but it’s going to take awhile for them to ramp up.”