Report: Rural Indiana Counties In Dire Need Of Doctors

County health rankings show Brown and Greene counties have only one primary care doctor for every 5,000 patients.

A new report shows several Southern Indiana counties are in dire need of more primary care physicians. Owen and Brown counties have some of the worst doctor to patient ratios in the state.

A report from County Health Rankings, a joint project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, shows Greene, Brown and Owen counties all have high patient to primary care physician ratios. Green County has 3,687 patients to every one primary care doctor. Owen County has a ratio of 5,396:1

Brown County has only three primary care doctors for its more than 15,000 residents, or a ratio of 5,076:1 and, but one of those doctors recently retired. The local health clinic has also cut back on the number of patients it sees.

Dr. Marin Garcia says that has put additional pressure on his practice.

“We stay busy every day and there’s still a shortage,” he says. “On the weekend especially, patients are having to go the ER a lot.”

Those emergency rooms are in Bloomington or Columbus hospitals. Both are about 30 minutes away.

IU Health’s Chief Operating Officer for Southern Indiana Physicians Sandy DeWeese says that can make getting medical care particularly difficult for rural residents.

“I do think that having a shortage of primary care physicians in rural areas makes it more difficult for elderly folks who might have transportation issues,” she says. “I think the access issues become more important.”

And while there are programs in place to increase the number of doctors in rural areas, the problem only seems to be getting worse.

DeWeese says there are 1,000 primary care positions that need to be filled. That number is expected to double by 2020.

Stan Jastrzebski contributed to this report.

Gretchen Frazee

Gretchen Frazee is a reporter/producer for WFIU and WTIU news. Prior to her current role, Frazee worked as the associate online content coordinator for WFIU/WTIU. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studied multimedia journalism and anthropology. You can follow her on Twitter @gretchenfrazee.

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