Atoka listed among other counties with doctor shortage

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ATOKA COUNTY, OK -- According to Oklahoma Watch, 72 of 77 Oklahoma counties are experiencing a shortage in health care professionals and Atoka is one of the counties on the list.

Ryan Ritter says he might not be here today if it were not for the fast acting doctors and medical crew at Atoka County Medical Center.

"I had an accident where an arrow severed my femoral artery and vein in my front yard and the life expectancy is less than two minutes," Ritter said.

He says doctors at the hospital saved his life.

"Since we've build that we've recruited a number of doctors. We have specialists that are coming," Ritter said.

CEO of Atoka County Medical Center Paul Reano says many rural counties do not have a hospital like theirs with 74 credentialed medical staff members, including doctors and nurse practitioners.

"They're here one day a week, one day a month, two days a month and they come in and practice and see patients those can be Cardiologists, Orthopedics," Reano said.

However, Reano says the county is still experiencing a shortage of full time doctors with only one full-time family practitioner.

"I believe the new standard is one physician for 5,000 people so from a family practice stand point you would say that most every county in the state of Oklahoma is short family practice physicians," Reano said.

Reano adds the county has several part-time family doctors and the hospital is working hard to help bring in another full-time family practice to accommodate their more than 14,000 residents. However, hospital Chairman David Burrage says it is a large expense to open a practice and attracting doctors to small communities can be challenging.

"We've been experiencing a shortage of doctors for some time," Burrage said. "I mean several years ago the board of the hospital, prior to when I was even on it, did a study and it showed that we needed considerably more doctors than we had then, and now actually we haven't gone backwards but we've had times when we've had less."

He says residents do not need to worry about the shortage because it should not affect their care.

To read Oklahoma Watch's story visit the link below.