Multimillion-dollar grant aims to keep doctors in Georgia

Published: Mar. 14, 2022 at 11:19 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The need for more doctors in rural areas is increasing by the day.

U.S. Sens. Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff secured more funding for Augusta University Medical Center. Over $5 million in fact, but the investment is to support and place medical professionals in the areas with little or no specialty doctors at all.

Quite a few counties in our viewing area do not have OBGYNs, pediatricians, and/or emergency medical doctors.

People living in rural counties are no strangers to having to travel for basic care. Washington County is one without an emergency medicine doctor according to a 2017 report by the Georgia Department of Public Health.

We spoke to a resident who details the challenges of needing medical care. A visit to the emergency room in rural Georgia could be expensive and risky due to a lack of access to a doctor.

“In small counties, if you have a heart attack or if you have something that requires surgery on the spot, you usually get transported to Dublin and even from Dublin to Augusta or Macon hospitals. If you urgently need someone, you’re still driving wide open in an ambulance. It would take you 30 to 40 minutes to get to a hospital, and by then, time’s precious,” said Adam Argoe, Washington County resident.

Leaders with the Medical College of Georgia say the state ranks at number 40 in physicians per capita because many are without basic care doctors.

Dr. David Hess, dean, said: “You can almost go anywhere in Georgia and be in an underserved area.”

The program hopes to change that by waiving medical school tuition for students who commit to one of these specialties for residency including family medicine, emergency medicine, pediatrics, internal medicine, psychiatry, obstetrics, and gynecology or general surgery in rural and underserved parts of Georgia.

“To address the shortage, you’ve got to get some of them out earlier, and you’ve got to expose them to rural Georgia,” said Hess.

Data shows doctors are more likely to stay in the state where they train, which is good news to people like Argoe.

The possibility of having better access to doctors is good news for residents. Hess is hopeful this will help with the need for more doctors across the state, not just here in the river region.

MCG has other campuses across Georgia where students can benefit from these programs. For a map of where doctors are needed, visit the Georgia Board of Health Care.

Argoe said: “It’d give me a better peace of mind to know there would be someone there just in case you needed them.”

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