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Texas rural hospitals in serious bind with COVID cases surging

Published: Dec. 3, 2020 at 5:02 PM CST
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - Texas’ rural hospital are in a serious bind with COVID-19 cases surging. A lack of primary care physicians combined with limited healthcare facilities make getting medical care difficult in rural counties across the Brazos Valley and across the state as well.

Dr. Shannon Ramsey Jimenez, the Chair of Primary Care and Clinical Medicine at Sam Houston State University College of Osteopathic Medicine was on First News at Four Thursday to discuss how medical experts are working to expand healthcare locally.

Dr. Jimenez says the reason for medical care being so rare in our rural counties is because there just simply are not enough physicians.

“We’re expecting 120,000 or higher doctor shortage in the next decade and Texas ranks 47th in the number of physicians per population unit. We just need more doctors,” Dr. Jimenez said.

In an effort to help with that shortage, SHSU started a medical school this year. In August, the first 75 students started classes there.

“Our mission is to create physicians to care for the people of Texas, particularly, in the rural and underserved areas,” Dr. Jimenez said. During the pandemic, medical professionals have developed other ways to treat patients in rural areas, like telehealth. Dr. Jimenez says there’s more, though.

“One of the other ways we’re working to provide more care with the same amount of physicians we have is through something called Team Based Care,” Dr. Jimenez continued. “Teams are formed with nurses and social workers and physician assistants and nurse practitioners to make sure everyone is working at the peak of their skillset so we can take care of more people.”

Dr. Jimenez says this problem is not specific to the state of Texas. However, it is worse in states that have larger, rural areas like ours.

The pandemic has certainly exacerbated this issue because people are trying to get out of more heavily populated areas.

“The population in rural areas is increasing, and it’s also putting a lot of strain on small practices in rural areas that is causing them to close,” Dr. Jimenez said.

The issue, Dr. Jimenez says, is that many doctors want to live and work in bigger cities. At SHSU, they are looking specifically for candidates who are dedicated to practicing in rural and underserved communities.

To see the full interview with Dr. Jimenez on First News at Four, click on the video player above.

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