There is a bill now before the State Senate, that is state budget neutral and has received very little media attention, but could have a significant positive impact on the residents of Oakdale, Riverbank and our neighboring communities.
SB 726 has passed the Assembly and will be debated in August in the Senate. This legislation would permit small rural hospitals, like Oak Valley, to recruit and hire physicians directly. This could be a tremendous benefit to local residents. Most people are aware of the serious shortage of specialists throughout the Central Valley. That shortage results in long waiting lists for patient care and treatment and long commutes to obtain care. We are fortunate that we have exceptional physicians who have chosen to practice in our Oak Valley Hospital community, but we simply do not have enough specialists.
The reasons for the shortage are multiple, but three major factors contribute to the recruiting challenge. One, professionals graduating from medical schools today are increasingly reluctant to establish their own practices or to join existing practices. They are more interested in focusing on patient care without the headaches of managing a practice. Second, even for established physicians it is often perceived financially infeasible to move a specialty practice to a small community. And third is the reality that large metropolitan areas simply offer a larger patient base and greater financial security.
SB 726 would permit Oak Valley Hospital and other rural hospitals to recruit and hire specialists, permitting new physicians the opportunity to practice medicine without a financial investment. That would mean that our community could finally have access to some of the many specialists we do not currently have.
There is no downside to this legislation. These physicians would still have to comply with all the standards every other physician must meet. No current practices of physicians or specialists would be negatively impacted. We would recruit only for those areas of practice currently underserved. It would simply mean more medical professionals available to meet the ever-increasing demand in our rural communities.
I urge you to join me and hundreds of other local area residents in supporting passage of SB 726. Please write or email our Senator Dave Cogdill today voicing your support for SB 726. You can email him through his Senate website or fax your letter to his Sacramento office 916-327-3523 or his Ripon office 209-599-8547.
Oak Valley Hospital District Board Member