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Since at least 2007, Idaho has ranked near the bottom when it comes to the number of doctors working in the state.The latest available data from the Association of American Medical Colleges ranks Idaho 49th among states.The Gem State had 184 doctors for every 100,000 people in 2010.There are many factors that contribute to Idaho’s physician shortage; there is limited access to medical education in Idaho, salaries tend to be lower, and it’s tougher to recruit in rural areas.In addition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has designated 39 of Idaho’s 44 counties as Health Professional Shortage Areas.In an effort to encourage more doctors to practice in Idaho, the state subsidizes the cost of medical school for 28 students in Washington and Utah per year. It also has two incentive programs; the Rural Healthcare Access Program and the Rural Physician Incentive Program.The Rural Healthcare Access Program is a way for Idaho communities to recruit doctors by offering signing bonuses or student loan repayments, as well as developing tele-health projects and improving access to care.The Rural Physician Incentive Program is a loan repayment program for doctors who chose to practice in a rural part of the state. It’s open to doctors from all schools, though preference is given to WWAMI and University of Utah graduates. Doctors are eligible to apply for up to $50,000 of loan repayment.

Idaho Falls Hospital Announces New Residency Program

Emilie Ritter Saunders
Boise State Public Radio

Idaho Falls will soon be home to its first internal medicine residents in an attempt to retain more doctors in the Gem State.

This week, Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine officials will give $500,000 to the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center to help kick start a new internal medicine residency program.

Jeff Sollis, CEO of EIRMC, points to data showing that doctors are more likely to stay in the state in which they were residents.

Idaho has had a doctor shortage for years – it currently ranks 49th among all states in physicians per capita – and Idaho Falls is no exception.

“We’re going to be left with four internal medicine doctors in Idaho Falls and the last internal medicine doctor we recruited was more than 10 years ago and it hasn’t been for lack of effort or trying to recruit more,” Sollis says.

The initial batch of 10 residents will grow to 30 over the next three years. Sollis says his hospital may also consider expanding from internal medicine specialties into family medicine, among others.

Currently, Idaho only boasts 141 medical resident slots across nine programs. A bill that would've more than doubled that number failed to gain traction in the state legislature this year.

EIRMC will begin accepting new internal medicine residents beginning July 1.

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season.

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