113 of 114 Missouri counties dealing with shortage of health care workers

Rural providers hardest hit by shortage
Published: Sep. 5, 2023 at 7:11 PM CDT
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(KMOV) -- Missouri is one of many states struggling to keep its hospitals fully staffed.

Data compiled by the Health Resources and Services Administration shows nearly every county in the state is experiencing a shortage of doctors, nurses and hospital staff. Industry experts believe the shortage is partly due to the massive “baby boomer” generation aging into its 60s and 70s, fomenting an increasingly large demand for health care services.

At the same time, staff turnover and a healthy job market are causing the industry to consolidate.

“The big cities have the luxury of having specialists right there and a lot of people out in the country, – they don’t want to have to go two hours to the bigger city,” said family practice physician Dr. Elliot DeBlieck, who started at Scotland County Hospital And Clinics in 2023.

DeBlieck was attracted to the small hospital in northern Missouri as a means of developing more of his skills, which are vital to such a facility.

“I picked Scotland County because they said, ‘Oh yeah, we will find someone to teach you,” DeBlieck recounted. “I’ve already got, you know, three different people who are going to teach me different things that I just have not learned yet.”

Meagan Weber is the CEO of Scotland County Hospital and Clinics and says recruiting to the facility is more difficult than the typical hospital because of differences in quality of life between urban and rural lifestyles.

“It’s hard because a lot of the newer generation, they really focus on that work, work-life balance,” Weber said. “In rural areas, you have to be on call to provide ER, OB, in-patient care, everything. We don’t have that many providers, so you really have to be on call a lot of the time.”

The state has been working to address these shortages in a couple of ways. Newly enacted provisions in a 2023 omnibus bill added just under $5 million to a program that helps pay off the student loans of health care workers in high-demand areas.

Another provision opens up more residency spots around the state. Residency is a training position new medical school graduates are required to undergo before becoming full-fledged, practicing doctors.

It should be noted that most other major capitalist countries provide universal healthcare to their citizens, including Canada, Japan and Australia. That system eliminates the market forces on hospitals, meaning they are far less incentivized by profits regardless of location.