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Clinic hires physician’s assistant

Doctor shortage continues in Moffat County

Collin Smith

— Tracey Ketcham, 27, just moved to Craig a week ago to work as a physician’s assistant at Moffat Family Clinic.

Because of Ketcham’s hire, the clinic is now accepting new patients.

Ketcham is a bright spot in a long void, said Dr. Catherine Crowe, D.O., who has worked at the clinic since 1992.

“There’s really a shortage of primary care (family) doctors in this town,” Crowe said. “It creates a little anxiety in me because we’re all in our 30s, but the community has to get some young docs or we won’t have any primary care doctors down the road.”

There are a lot of qualified doctors in the job pool, but it’s difficult to attract them to the area in part because of Moffat’s remoteness, Crowe said. The local clinics do not want to hire anyone they don’t feel is qualified.

“It takes a certain kind of person to live in a rural area,” she said.

Moffat Family Clinic has brought six to eight doctors to town since 2005 and “wined and dined them” only to lose them to other areas, Crowe said.

The Bureau of Primary Health Care designated Moffat County a Health Professional Shortage Area on May 30 and a Medically Underserved Population earlier in the year.

Moffat’s designations provide for several advantages in recruiting new physicians through 30 different programs, said a representative for the Bureau of Primary Health Care.

These programs include helping physicians to pay their school loans and one through Medicare to give bonus payments to doctors and clinics.

The Memorial Hospital started a physician incentive program in June. It was recommended by hospital administration and approved by its Board of Directors.

The program authorizes the hospital to provide incentives and moving costs up to $65,000 for prospective new obstetricians, doctors who work with pregnancies and deliver babies, and internists, who deal with general medicine and would work in one of the family clinics in the county.

There are two obstetricians currently serving Moffat County, which is a burden to those doctors because of the nature of their practice, THM CEO George Rohrich said. The hospital sees them as its primary need at the moment.

“There’s a huge cost to bring physicians to town,” Rohrich said. “There’s a shortage nationally. In family medicine, there are more openings than there are doctors to fill them.”

Moffat County’s primary physician shortages are a problem for the community at large, Rohrich said.

“A shortage of doctors means it can be hard to get in, long waits to get in to see your family doctor,” Rohrich said. “It’s an access problem. As people cannot get in to see their primary care physicians, they go without care, go to the ER – where services are provided instantly but at a huge cost – or they go someplace else.”

TMH currently is seeing more and more traffic through the ER, Rohrich said. He attributed that to not only family doctor shortages, but to the increased scale of business in Craig, as well.

For her part, Ketcham, who is not allotted to receive incentives from TMH, is happy to have found a place in Craig.

“I’d like to stay here for a while,” Ketcham said. “I’m excited to be established for the first time in my life. I’m looking forward to learning, too. They’re all great teachers here.”

She did three rotations at Moffat Family Clinic last year as a student, and chose this job as opposed to something elsewhere in Colorado because of the way the clinic practices medicine.

“They’re very cutting edge on preventative care,” Ketcham said. “They work hard to have the most recent and up-to-date practices on taking care of the patients. Everyone is well read. The patients come first.”

Collin Smith can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 209, or cesmith@craigdailypress.com


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