Williston seeks doctorsIn an area seeing growth from oil development, doctors are in short supply, health officials say. Williston’s Mercy Medical Center clinic and the hospital itself are looking for health care professionals in family practice, internal medicine, pediatrics, orthopedic surgeons and urologists, Chief Executive Officer Dennis Goebel said.
WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — In an area seeing growth from oil development, doctors are in short supply, health officials say.
Williston’s Mercy Medical Center clinic and the hospital itself are looking for health care professionals in family practice, internal medicine, pediatrics, orthopedic surgeons and urologists, Chief Executive Officer Dennis Goebel said.
The hospital has a signed contract for a new family-practice doctor in 2010, and has the possibility of three family-practice doctors next year, he said. The increase in oil development has helped bring interest from doctors, he said.
Marcia Arnold, a clinic manager at Williston’s Trinity Community Clinic-Western Dakota, said it is frustrating to turn away patients because the doctors are booked. Depending on the illness, patients may be asked to wait a few days or go to the emergency room, she said.
“It’s a stressful time for physicians, patients and employees,” Arnold said.
As of this week, Trinity Clinic has four family-practice doctors. Arnold said it needs at least one more family-practice doctor and a nurse practitioner.
“We are desperate for more doctors,” she said.
Williston’s rural location makes it more difficult to attract doctors’ spouses or children, Arnold said.
Mercy Medical Center offers sign-on bonuses and loan repayment programs as incentives, Goebel said.
“We’re working on every program available. Our offer is very aggressive, very competitive, and that’s why we’re seeing some activity,” he said.
Goebel said many people do not realize how beautiful the area is.
“They think of it as being very flat and barren, and when you’re here, you can see that we have both the rugged terrain of the Badlands and the rolling hills and the lake on the other side,” he said. “And it’s actually quite a bit more attractive area to live in than people had imagined until they come out here.”
Trinity Clinic uses two recruiting firms in Minot to help get doctors to Williston, Arnold said. It also adversities in area newspapers, and clinic representatives talk to students in the University of North Dakota medical school, she said.
“All of our students have a rural rotation,” medical school Dean H. David Wilson said. “Every one of our medical students is expected to spend some time in a rural area in North Dakota. We mandated that a number of years ago, I think so that they do appreciate small-town doctors and the quality of medicine that’s practiced in small-town North Dakota.”
One program is called Rural Opportunities in Medical Education, or ROME, in which junior-year medical students elect to work seven months in a rural community such as Williston, Jamestown, Devils Lake and Hettinger, Wilson said. A state-community loan forgiveness program also is available, said Judy DeMers, UND associate dean for student affairs. .
A key to getting doctors into the community is courting future physicians who call Williston home, said state Rep. Gary Sukut, R-Williston.
“Our big success is a lot of doctors that are local people. That’s the wise way, to try to hang on to our own people because they want to come back,” Sukut said.