FOX13 Investigates: Doctor shortages in parts of the south

If you made a cold call to get an appointment with a doctor lately, you already know the wait time can be up to a month or longer. And it's going to get worse.

In a comprehensive report released by The Association of American Medical Colleges, AAMC, the doctor shortage in America is real and significant. Over the next 10 years, we could see a doctor shortage ranging from 62-to 95-thousand.

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They are up to their hearts in patients.

Dr. Dorcas Eshund is one of only two pediatricians taking care of sick children in seven counties.

Administrators have finally filled the family practice doctor position at their clinic in Clarksdale, Miss. That was a two year search. Now they have to fill the same position at their clinic in Clarksdale. That search has been going on for three long years.

Meantime, Dr. William Booker alone takes care of poor, sick adults in the Delta who come to clinic.

His co-workers call him Saint Booker. He finished his medical training and came back home to work.

His patient load would make many doctors find another gig. "If they are here at 8:00, I'm here at 8, and I work until the last one is seen... No matter what time it is," he explained.

Lately he averages 450 patient appointments per month... Almost 125 more appointments than expected or the standard.

When he came back to Clarksdale in the late 80's, he said there were about 60 doctors with a population of 22,000.

Today, there are only 25 doctors. To put that into perspective, the Methodist/LeBonheur Healthcare system in Memphis has 25 buildings just for primary care staff.

The same week FOX13 interviewed Dr. Booker, our cameras were rolling in Washington as the CEO of his clinic met with members of Congress asking for help.

If it is coming, crucial funding to lure doctors to the delta needs to come soon, because medically speaking, the Delta is on life support.

This is from the AAMC report:

"To help alleviate the shortage, the AAMC supports a multipronged solution, which includes innovations in care delivery, better use of technology, and increased federal support for an additional 3,000 new residency positions a year over the next five years. Medical schools have done their part to increase the overall number of physicians by expanding their class sizes, and now Congress must approve a modest increase in federal support for new doctor training if the United States is to increase its overall number of physicians..."