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Fast-growing Inland Empire experiencing shortage of doctors

October 24, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The Inland Empire, one of the fastest-growing regions in the U.S., has a shortage of doctors and high-turnover rate of medical staff.

With 120 doctors per 100,000 people, the region encompassing the counties of Riverside and San Bernardino has the lowest per capita physician ratio in all of California. Only the Central Valley comes close.

Experts cite the area's growing population, number of people who use Medicare and expense of medical school as factors into to the shortage of doctors.

One possible solution to keeping doctors in the area may be incentive programs such as loan forgiveness for doctors who set up practices in underserved communities.

Another solution may be upping the number of residency programs, which determine in large part where a doctor will end up staying. But that's something easier said than done.

"With the anticipated cuts in Medicare, there is serious concern that they may cut the funding for residency positions, which would put a serious dent in our ability to bring doctors into the Inland Empire," said Dr. Roger Hadley, dean of Loma Linda University's school of medicine.

At Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, there are 130 to 150 available spots open each year. At Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton, there are 160 positions.

Fifty to 60 percent will end up staying in the area after their four-year training is over.