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Obamacare may help specialty doctor shortage, said doctors

By: Melissa Gundersen
EL PASO, Texas -- Many people in the Borderland are forced to travel hours away from home for medical care.

Finding a specialty doctor in the Borderland can be challenging.

"We're further behind than anywhere else in the country in the number of specialists in certain areas," said Dr. Jose Manuel De La Rosa.

De La Rosa said it's a problem El Paso has faced for years. As the population grows and ages, things are becoming worse.

That's why officials at the Paul L Foster School of Medicine in south central El Paso are actively trying to recruit new specialty doctors to the area.

"We've had some successes. We have recruited three pediatric surgeons to the community, when there were none," said De La Rosa.

Doctors said it's still not enough. For example, according to the Texas Medical License Database El Paso only has six neurologists. That's 80 percent below what's needed.

The shortage is forcing people to travel to places like Dallas, Houston and Lubbock for care.

De La Rosa said it's hard to recruit specialists to El Paso for a few reasons. One is the money.

"The pay is a little bit lower. You can see the same number of patients in Kansas and get better reimbursement for them," said De La Rosa.

De La Rosa said that may change for El Paso by January 2014 when new legislation kicks in.

"With everyone getting insurance under Obamacare, said De La Rosa.

With more insured patients, doctors said they'll see a spike in patient visits. More patient visits mean a bigger paycheck.

De La Rosa said the shortage won't go away overnight, though. He said the El Paso's reputation needs to change first.

"Overcoming the image of El Paso as a small community. People don't recognize that we're a great big (community), said De La Rosa.

Officials at the medical school are recruiting nationally and said the goal is to get prospective doctors to visit the Borderland.

While they are seeing some improvements, De La Rosa said it may take about 10 years to get to where we need to be.
 

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