The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 12, 2011

Is there a doctor in the house?

Northwest Oklahoma takes on the struggle to recruit physicians into rural communities

By Joe Malan, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

— There still is a struggle to recruit primary care physicians to rural areas and smaller towns, area health care professionals say.

Dr. Brett J. Krablan of Kingfisher said it’s hard enough to recruit people to become primary care physicians, rather than specialty doctors, but it’s even harder to get them to rural areas.

“(In big cities) there’s stuff to do — good restaurants, cool places to live — so why in the world would they end up in a rural community unless they wanted to do so?” Krablan said.

Kingfisher has between eight to 10 physicians, some tied to Kingfisher Regional Hospital.

There are even fewer in Hennessey.

Dr. Dale Reinschmiedt practices family medicine in Hennessey as well as Garber.

Reinschmiedt said there’s a great need for physicians in rural areas and small towns.

“We have a large drawing area,” Reinschmiedt said. “We draw from Kingfisher, Okeene, Enid and everything west of Enid. Garber, Burlington and Crescent are in there. We even get some from Seiling and Watonga.”

And doctor shortages aren’t limited to the small towns. Reinschmiedt says there’s even a doctor shortage in Enid.

“We pick up patients all the time from Enid,” he said.

Dr. Robin L. Matson has a different view.

For a town the size of Kingfisher, there probably are enough doctors to go around, he said.

“In terms of market coverage, I think we have enough providers here,” Matson said.

He added he thinks more health care providers is not always beneficial.

“You’ve only got so many patients to go around,” he said. “When you’ve got so many patients to go around, it dilutes someone’s practice out.”

But, he said, the general need for more primary care physicians in rural areas is understandable because most doctors have a very high debt out of medical school and are going to want to go somewhere where they can earn a lot of money right away.

Reinschmiedt said one of the most important things a small community should have to attract doctors are good schools.

Also, he said, another advantage for rural doctors is to have the ability to hire a physician’s associate who can allow a doctor to have time off or see more patients in the practice.