Shortage easing on primary care doctors in South MS

By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - This month marks five years since Hurricane Katrina displaced thousands of South Mississippians, including many of those working in the medical profession. Healthcare officials said the result is a shortage of primary care doctors in our area.

At Sunday's grand re-opening for Internal Medicine of Long Beach, healthcare workers talked about what it will take to get more physicians here.

Dr. Harris Evans spends his time examining his patients. Five years ago, he was looking at what Hurricane Katrina had done to his clinic.

"Mostly, the roof. A lot of leaks and mold," said Dr. Harris. "Basically we were forced to move."

Dr. Harris was able to continue practicing in South Mississippi, but Garden Park Medical Center officials said Hurricane Katrina forced many in the medical community to leave the area.

"There was a shortage, especially right after Katrina. Some physicians moved away," said Belinda Rose, Area Practice Manager. "We're in the process of employing and, of course, hiring the support staff for several primary care physicians to move into the area."

"HCA and Garden Park have hired several new primary care physicians both internists and family practitioners which will help a lot," Dr. Evans said. "But we need doctors here. We need doctors in pediatrics. We do need general practitioners and internists."

Dr. Evans said he knows what it will take to lure more doctors to South Mississippi.

"A better view of Mississippi, no more oil spills and not another Katrina. I think that scared a lot of people," Dr. Evans said.

"When you look at a place to go as you graduate medical school, you look to where do I want to be? What do I want to do? Where do I want to live for the rest of my life? Where do I want to raise my family? If you're worried about hurricanes, worried about lack of employment and floods, you're going to worry about that a lot so you can go choose someplace else. "

Garden Park officials said one of the effects of primary care doctor shortages is that more people tend to go the emergency rooms because they can't get an appointment in a reasonable length of time.

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