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“Alabama Needs More Doctors”: House passes Physician Workforce Act

The bill aims to boost recruitment of out-of-state physicians to Alabama.

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Alabama House passes Physician Workforce Act because ‘Alabama Needs More Doctors’

The Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a bill that aims to address the state’s doctor shortage and create an apprenticeship-like program for medical school graduates who are waiting to get placed into residency programs.

“The physician workforce is vanishing,” said Dr. Mark LeQuire, a Montgomery radiologist. “The causes are many, including physician retirements, physician burnout and an aging population. But no matter what the causes are, there’s only one solution: Alabama needs more doctors.” 

The bill, the Physician Workforce Act, aims to boost recruitment of out-of-state physicians to Alabama, accelerate licensure so international medical graduates can help staff overcrowded hospitals, and creates an apprenticeship-like program for medical school graduates who are waiting to get placed into residency.

Rep. Paul Lee, the Chairman of the House Health Committee, sponsored the Physician Workforce Act. 

“Our bill is a common sense approach to recruit more physicians and better utilize our existing physician workforce,” said Rep. Lee.

Sen. April Weaver is the Senate sponsor of the Physician Workforce Act. 

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“The Physician Workforce Act is an important tool for expanding access to care in underserved communities. This legislation takes a collaborative approach and leverages the experience of teaching health centers to increase and retain a critical clinical workforce across Alabama,” said Lauren Ousley, Director of Policy and Operations with the Alabama Primary Health Care Association.

Molly M. Stone, President of the Alabama Association of Free and Charitable Clinics, said, “The Alabama Association of Free and Charitable Clinics serves some of the most medically vulnerable residents of our state. The Physician Workforce Act would provide a new pool of talent that could help the AAFCC’s member clinics expand their workforce and increase the number of patients the clinics can serve. The Act would pay dividends for the entire community, improving the quality of life for uninsured and underinsured patients in our state, while providing hands-on experience for medical school graduates.”

Specifically, the Physician Workforce Act would:

Cut Red Tape and Remove Unnecessary Barriers. The bill would make it easier for physicians who practice out-of-state to move to Alabama by removing a requirement for an additional, in-person examination.

Better Utilize the State’s Existing Physician Workforce. By allowing international medical graduates to apply for a medical license a full year earlier during their training, the bill would help physician recruitment and allow international medical graduates to get to work sooner, filling overnight shifts in hospitals or busy clinics. 

Create an Apprenticeship-like Program. Alabama would join nearly 10 other states that allow graduate physicians to increase their clinical knowledge and skills under the supervision of licensed physicians as they prepare to reapply to residency positions, while at the same time helping fill clinical staff shortages. 

In addition to the Medical Association of the State of Alabama, numerous other organizations are supporting the Physician Workforce Act, including the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), the University of South Alabama, the Free Clinics Association, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, Federally Qualified Health Centers, and several medical specialty groups.  

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“The shortage of physicians in Alabama is a critical issue that affects the health and well-being of every community,” said Dr. LeQuire. “The Physician Workforce Act is an important step forward to ensure more Alabamians have access to the physician-led, team-based care they need and deserve. Long term, the state needs to train more physicians in Alabama residency programs and then convince them to stay, but the Physician Workforce Act is an important first step.”

The Alabama Political Reporter is a daily political news site devoted to Alabama politics. We provide accurate, reliable coverage of policy, elections and government.

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