New partnership helps Iowa physician shortage - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

New partnership helps Iowa physician shortage

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -  Iowa is potentially on the verge of a health care crisis, with a shortage of physicians and mental health specialists.

Monday, members of the Iowa Health System, which operates Allen Hospital in Waterloo, met with local legislators to discuss problems and possible solutions.

"We'd like the state to be involved in terms of helping us with loan forgiveness, tuition reimbursement to encourage medical students to come here, do training and stay here once done with their training," said Iowa Health System President and CEO Bill Leaver.

"One of the major factors is our low reimbursement rate for medicare. We're 49th in the country, and we're actually being punished for being efficient because rates are based on what your overall costs in your system are. We've been very efficient and very high quality and the current system does not reward those two things," said Iowa Senator Jeff Danielson.

The Iowa Health System is asking the state to contribute $3 million dollars for a fund to help add 150 new physician residency slots in Iowa.

Allen Hospital is doing its part to help recruit and keep physicians in Iowa. Allen partnered with Des Moines University to start the Northeast Iowa Area Health Education Center or AHEC.

The program kicked off in June with four Des Moines University medical students spending one year at Allen Hospital.

One of those four medical students might sound familiar. Tom Petrie was a quarterback at UNI from 2001 to 2005.

Three years later, he's back in the area. But instead of studying playbooks, he's studying medicine.

Petrie is one of four Des Moines University medical students part of the new AHEC program. The program has two main goals: education and workforce development.

"Going into the elementary schools to encourage kids to go into medicine as well as setting up these rotations and trying to keep students in the state of Iowa down the road when they're done and practicing physicians," said third year medical student Tom Petrie.

AHEC is designed to get students thinking about a career in health care as early as possible. For people who do go into medicine, keep them in the state.

"Definitely a great way to build relationships and recruit our own workers for Allen Hospital and the State of Iowa," said AHEC Executive Director Kristin Wentworth.

Tom Petrie said he'd love to work and raise a family in Iowa.

"After residency I'd like to return to the Midwest and we have a lot of family here in Cedar Falls, so it would be an easy place to come back to that's for sure," said Petrie.

Hopefully other students in AHEC will feel like Petrie. After spending a year at Allen, they'll like the experience, like the community and eventually take a job here.

Reporter: Danielle Wagner

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