Doctor shortage and lack of health insurance hits low cost clinic

By Danielle Thomas - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Many of the people who fill the examination beds have little money and no health insurance. They are the people Dr. Jonette Scott says she's dedicated her career to helping.

"I feel like they're family," said Dr. Scott. "They treat me like family sometimes. We cry together. We rejoice in their accomplishments. And it just makes you feel like you are an extension of them."

Coastal Family Health's director says he has spent months trying to hire three internal medicine doctors and one family practitioner. But the pool of likely applicants is not very deep.

"When they get out of medical school, most of them are going into specialty care because it pays more," said Joe Dawsey. "I saw a graph the other day where the primary care docs, the internal medicine, pediatrics, and family practice are the lowest paying of any of them when they start".

The shortage of doctors isn't going unnoticed.

"We can't see as many patients as we did before. Our appointment times are getting farther out. We're very fortunate. We have some great nurse practitioners we are able to use. Those are mid-level practitioners that are able to see the patients, but they have to be supervised by physicians," said Dawsey.

Although they won't likely get rich, Dr. Scott says physicians who serve the under served get a different kind of reward.

"I would encourage them to search their souls first and make sure that they are going into the field for the right reasons and then look at what they can offer the community and also through the community," said Dr. Scott. "Just reaching out individually. By touching one they can reach out to masses."

Coastal Family Health Center has also been affected by recent changes in federal law as to where foreign doctors can practice. The director says in the past, foreign physicians had to go to low income areas. But now they can go almost any where they want, which is adding to the shortage in community clinics.