National shortage of primary care doctors affecting rural Idaho

Posted at 5:26 PM, Sep 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-11 19:27:19-04

When you're sick, your family care physician might be the first person you call. In some of Idaho's most rural counties, those phone lines are too busy. According to a new report, 13% of Americans live in counties with a shortage of primary care physicians. 

"In the city of Boise we have enough primary care providers, but everywhere else, Meridian, Nampa, all the other towns, are underserved," says co-medical director of Terry Reilly Health Services Dr. Vake Kantayya. 

According to Terry Reilly, Idaho ranks second to last in the availability of permanent care providers. To put that in perspective, it's about 1 doctor for every 1600 patients. Dr. Vake Kantayya has worked in Nampa for 4 years and has seen how this shortage is affecting our area. 

"When a patient calls at some of our clinics they're having to wait four weeks, five weeks, six weeks which is a long time to wait when you're not well," says Kantayya. 

It also means more people are seeking care from emergency clinics or specialists. 

"Specialists aren't necessarily trained to keep the patients coming back to them, they want to treat the severe situation and then they say to follow up with a primary care doctor," says Kantayya. 

Doctors from Boise are using Telehealth to help bridge that gap for those that live in rural areas like Marsing and Middleton.