Hawai’i Lawmakers Hope to Address Physician Shortage

April 16, 2013, 1:48 PM HST · Updated April 17, 7:11 AM
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(L to R) Dr. Colin Lee, Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz, Rep. Gil Keith-Agaran, Maui Memorial Medical Center CEO Wes Lo, Rep. Kyle Yamashita, and MMMC Regional Board Member Anthony P. Takitani. Photo by Wendy Osher.

Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz (second from left), was among those who participated in the dedication of the helipad at the Maui Memorial Medical Center in 2011. He is now among the Hawaii congressional delegation that is pushing to address the physician shortage in rural communities. File photo by Wendy Osher.

By Maui Now Staff

The Hawai’i Congressional delegation joined in introducing legislation to address physician shortages in rural communities, including those on the neighbor islands, officials said.

The legislation as written would reportedly fund preventative health care training for students capable of treating the 110,000 Hawai’i residents who live in rural communities.

In an announcement today, US Senator Brian Schatz said he and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard introduced Senate and House versions of the Rural Preventive Health Care Training Act. The original co-sponsors, he said, were US Senator Mazie Hirono and Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa, who round out the Hawai’i congressional delegation.

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“This legislation is critical to ensuring that everyone has access to affordable health care and preventive services regardless of where you live,” said Senator Brian Schatz in a press release this morning.

“While the Affordable Care Act is a big step towards solving our health care crisis, there are still communities in Hawaii and across the country that have difficulty finding the appropriate care for their families. We must provide the appropriate training to students and those that want to serve our community, and this legislation would do just that,” he said.

Sen. Hirono, citing sources at John A. Burns School of Medicine, said the neighbor islands face an especially critical shortage of health care professionals, with the state’s doctor count about 600 less than than what it needs.

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