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Georgia seeing a shortage of primary care physicians

The state is only meeting 39.94% of the healthcare worker need.

MACON, Ga. — A national foundation says one out of three Georgians -- more than 3.3 million people -- live in areas without a primary care physician. Rural counties with a lack of health resources are seeing the most need. 

According to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, Georgia has only met 40% of the care needed. In counties like Peach, Hancock, and Macon, they are underserved and still need healthcare workers. Irene Ho is a certified physician assistant at Family Care of Middle Georgia. She says rural counties are missed because medical professionals aren't interested in working in those areas. 

"They're really drawn to the larger cities and what larger cities have to offer as far education for their families, resources, family activities, maybe the large city feel, good school systems, so maybe that's one of the drawbacks," Ho said.

The shortage doesn't focus on primary care physicians. It's in the dental and mental healthcare field, too. Governor Brian Kemp introduced a Healthcare Workforce Commission to hire and retain more healthcare workers in Georgia. Ho says having a primary care physician is important for everyone's health.

"Having that person to monitor their health, keep them in check, and having this annual to make sure, 'Yeah, these are things that are looking good,' or, 'Hey, we should look a little bit closer to this part or monitoring this part because it's a little bit off.' I think just having that peace of mind that somebody is caring for your health is very important," Ho said.

In January 2023, the commission released its final report. It estimates 3.7 percent of the healthcare workforce will leave each year. Either retiring or leaving the state. The report says the state's growing demand for healthcare services won't slow down because of population growth, an aging population, and more diseases among Georgians.

Their solutions to keep healthcare workers? Addressing workplace violence, providing loan forgiveness to get graduates to stay in Georgia, and exploring updates to practice limitations.

Ho told 13WMAZ, she has seen patients come from Milledgeville, Atlanta, and Eatonton. Dr. Benjamin Ho says they provide health education too.

"Education on diet, on exercise, the importance of stop smoking, and also getting along with other people, mental health," Dr. Benjamin Ho said.

If you or someone does not have health insurance but need health services, places like the Macon Volunteer Clinic and United Way of Central Georgia can provide resources.

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