Florida doctors at a shortage and growing

Nurse practitioners ask for authority to diagnose, prescribe medications

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida is running out of doctors at an alarming rate, according to a new study from the Teaching Hospital Council and Safety Net Hospital Alliance, and it is affecting patient care.

The study says Florida would need to create and fill more than 13,500 residency positions by 2025 to stop the shortage. The solution will come from how much the Legislature is willing to put into medical education funding 

"There is bad news," said Tim Goldfarb, with UF Health Shands. "The bad news is that we will be at least 7,000 doctors short to meet our citizens' needs by 2025."

The shortage is affecting every region of the state and impacts various specialty care programs from general surgery to oncology.

"It will be manifested by delayed care," said Rep. Cary Pigman. "It will be manifest by more rescue therapy, that which we don't like. If you don't get good management of your health, or good management of your chronic condition, what we'll wind up doing is seeing busy emergency departments taking care of you when in crisis."

Part of the problem is not being able to keep medical school residents. Dr. Gary Goforth said patients in Southwest Florida are already feeling the squeeze.

"I refer patients now," Goforth said. "Sometimes it takes me months to get them into the specialists they need. We're already seeing that shortage, and it's going to get worse."

Nurse practitioners said they may not be the answer, but could help close the gap.

They are now asking for authority to diagnose and prescribe medications. Other states already do it, and they said it can seriously benefit rural areas.

"These other states, the Medicaid costs are going down, the Medicare costs are going down, health of people are going up, 30-day readmissions are going down when nurse practitioners have the ability to practice with full authority," said Susan Lynch, with the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

Bills have been filed, but lawmakers said that the root problem of a physician shortage would still remain.