Utilize services available now to bring more

Published 12:06 am Sunday, July 21, 2013

Is your physician older than you are? Statistically, America, and Adams County is growing older and older by the day.

That’s not just a nice way of saying, “None of us is getting any younger.”

It’s an acknowledgment that the Baby Boomer generation is growing older, and they’re the largest single generation we have so statistically the older population is growing  — fast.

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So what happens when all the Baby Boomers retire and what happens when your local physician is among those soon to be retired?

The short answer: Trouble.

New physicians will need to replace those retiring ones. That’s why both local hospitals pay so much attention to physician recruiting.

Physicians in the Natchez area may come and go for a number of reasons, but increasingly the reason may be that they’re simply getting old and getting ready to retire soon.

Natchez Community Hospital CEO Eric Robinson spoke last week to the Rotary Club of Natchez giving a quick update on the myriad of issues facing local hospitals.

Robinson, who has been at his post a little more than a year, spoke on all sorts of things, but the one that was most interesting was the issue of physician recruitment.

“In Adams County, the overall population is declining,” he said. “The only sector that is growing is the 55 and older one.”

That’s cause for concern, he said.

“We face the potential of a mass exodus just because of retirement,” Robinson said.

That’s why physician recruitment is so critical to the hospitals, sure, but also to the community.

“We do a needs analysis which looks at population, demographics and the specialties we have here,” Robinson said.

“In the next three and a half years, that analysis shows we’ll need 17 new physicians here,” he said.

That’s a pile of doctors.

“We’ve got over 60 physicians on our medical staff at the hospital,” Robinson said, adding that he believed Natchez Regional Medical Center had approximately the same number, as many local physician are on staff at both facilities.

If Robinson’s estimate of approximately 60 physicians is correct and the need is truly 17, the need is pretty deep.

Let’s hope the physician recruiters are able to land a few more folks soon. Seventeen over three years means we need approximately six per year.

Robinson also said in his first year in Natchez, he’s been surprised by the quality of medicine practiced here.

“Don’t take for granted the quality of physicians in Natchez,” he said. “I’ve been blown away by the quality of physicians here.”

Perhaps locals don’t realize just how good of care is available here. Maybe that’s what leads so many people to head to other areas for medical services that are offered here.

Robinson said more physicians are needed, but that’s not the only problem our area faces.

A great deal of patients — Robinson estimates approximately 40 percent — leave the area for medical services that are offered here.

Clearly, our community will probably never be large enough to have a neurosurgeon on staff, but that’s not all of the types of procedures that leave.

Perhaps as we all get older and wiser, we’ll realize that we shouldn’t take the medical services we have here for granted, instead choosing to utilize what’s in town. Doing that could help convince a few young doctors that relocating to the area would be in their best interest. Clearly it would be in ours.


Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.