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Two doctor shortage bills face deadline Friday

Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 5:16 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - In Nevada during the “Emergency Declaration,” physicians from other states can come here and practice temporarily if they are paid. If, however they want to volunteer, that’s against the law. AB 81 changes that dynamic and would allow physicians affiliated with a sponsoring organization to volunteer their time, even if they haven’t been actively practicing for three years.

“Remote Area Medical, they bring in doctors from all over the country to do both physical checkups, dental work and optometry work,” says Assemblyman Gregory Hafen II a Republican who represents District 36 who sponsors the bill. “And recently they ran into an issue where volunteers were told they couldn’t come because they hadn’t been practicing long enough,” he says.

Hafen says his bill would allow physicians from out of state to volunteer their time even when the emergency declaration is rescinded.

Assembly Bill 372 proposes a longer-term solution to the shortage of physicians in Nevada. If approved the bill would pay off student debt of medical school students who promise to practice for a set amount of years in Nevada after their residency.

“Let’s say we want a neurosurgeon to come here, we don’t have a program for them to do the residency here,” says Assemblywoman Heidi Kasama, a Republican representing District 2, and sponsor of the bill. “So, we want to work with them. If they have to do the residency in California, New York or some other place, that we provide them the funds so they can do their residency there. With the stipulation that they have to come back to the state of Nevada to serve for so many years,” says Kasama.

Kasama says money would come from Nevada’s general fund.

She says it would be limited in the amount of money awarded with a maximum of $200,000 per resident and based on exactly what specialty our state needs. Money could be used for under-graduate debt as well depending upon the cost.

Kasama says this may address the brain drain our state experiences when medical students educated in Nevada, graduate and receive a residency not offered here and never return.

The two lawmakers face a deadline tomorrow. That’s when their bills must be out of committee. Hafen says he is working hard to make sure that happens. Kasama says because her bill has a fiscal note attached, the deadline does not apply to her bill.

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