Health and Healthcare

COVID-19: This Is the State With the Fewest Doctors per Person

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As U.S. COVID-19 hospitalizations have risen above 100,000, the number of ICU beds and doctors and nurses available to treat patients has become a critical issue. In some cities, hospitals have become overwhelmed and patient care has started to suffer, as it did in New York City and other population centers during March and April.

The United States has been facing a shortage of doctors for a few years, but the coronavirus crisis has exposed just how big the problem is. Medical institutions have been warning that there could be a shortage of up to 120,000 medical professionals by 2030 nationwide, according to research by the Association of American Medical Colleges.

To alleviate some of the current shortages, thousands of health care workers from all over the country, many of them retired, have been asked to come back. Yet, the labor shortage could worsen. The COVID-19 pandemic is getting worse, with the third wave shattering hospitalization and confirmed case records almost on a daily basis. As the virus spreads, doctors and nurses will inevitably fall sick.

To find the number of doctors per capita in every state, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on primary care physicians from the 2020 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

Most of the states with the fewest doctors per capita are in the South. So far, the states with the most confirmed coronavirus cases also have relatively higher numbers of doctors per capita, and vice versa — with the exceptions of Texas and Georgia. These two states are in the top 10 states with the fewest doctors per capita but in the top 15 of states with the most COVID-19 cases. In some places, there is also a shortage of hospitals. Amid the pandemic, these are the counties with the fewest hospitals.

The variation between states with the most and fewest doctors per capita is stark. It ranges from 112.8 doctors for every 100,000 people in the state with the most doctors per capita to 52.6 in the state with the fewest, less than half the concentration of the best state.

These are the states with the most doctors per capita.

States with a lower doctor-to-resident ratio share some common attributes, including generally lower median household incomes and higher poverty rates than comparable U.S. figures. Among the 20 states with the fewest practicing physicians per capita, 14 have a poverty rate that is higher than the national average.

Many of the states with the fewest doctors per capita also have a relatively high uninsured population. Fifteen of the 20 states with the lowest concentration of doctors have uninsured rates that are higher than the U.S. average of 8.9%. In one state, almost a fifth of the adult population is without health coverage. On the other hand, 19 of the 20 states with the most doctors per capita have lower uninsured rates than the national rate.

The country is relying on doctors, health care workers and the medical system as a whole (which is often overwhelmed even in normal times) now more than ever to fight the intensifying outbreak.

Mississippi is the state with the fewest doctors per person. Its primary care doctor to population ratio is 1 to 1,889. Its primary care doctors per 100,000 people are only 53. The state’s population of 2,986,530 makes it the 17th smallest by that measure.

Mississippi’s total number of emergency room doctors at 552 is the 17th lowest in the country. COVID-19 confirmed cases there as of December 7, 2020, were 1,216 per 100,000 people, the 11th lowest at 36,317. COVID-19-related deaths as of December 7, 2020, were nine per 100,000 people, the fifth lowest among all states.

The number of adults reporting poor or fair health is 24.1%, the highest among all states. Adults without health insurance is at 12.1%, the sixth highest in the country. Mississippi adults with diabetes are 14.6% of the population, the second highest among all states.

These are the states with the fewest and most doctors per person.

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