ELKO – A group of concerned citizens gathered Thursday to hear updates on health care issues that face Medicaid and Medicare patients, including efforts to recruit more doctors.
The Medicare in Elko Work Group was organized by Larry Hyslop and meets about once a month at Northeastern Nevada Museum to discuss the issues facing elderly patients. The group also included medical professionals who talked to the crowd about the problems, and possible solutions, to the concern of doctor shortages.
“We meet about every three weeks. About half of those are seniors that are having trouble with healthcare,” said Hyslop. “The other half are professionals and doctors and people that work with senior citizens.”
Hyslop said the main goal of his group is to pass along information and discuss ways to ease the burden on patients.
“We’re not really able to do much ourselves, we just want to bring to the forefront the problem and some of the possible solutions,” he said. “By being here and talking about some possible solutions to the problem, I think that’s helped.”
Because there are so few primary care physicians in the area, Medicare patients wanting to see a doctor immediately may not be able to get into a doctor’s office in Elko.
“The biggest issue isn’t that they can’t get in to see somebody,” said Assistant Dean of the University of Nevada school of medicine Gerald Ackerman. “Sometimes when I’m sick I want to see a doctor tomorrow. Most of us don’t see a doctor until we’re sick.”
Ackerman also explained that the high demand for Medicare patients to get seen has overwhelmed local medical institutions and has made wait times for new patients as long as 14 days. Some patients have gone to Battle Mountain for treatment when medical institutions in Elko County have wait times too long for patients to accept.
Assistant Administrator for Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital Ryan Fowler said the hospital does accept all Medicare and Medicaid patients but is hoping to recruit more primary care doctors to cut down on patient wait times.
“Part of our recruitment strategy is to recruit primary care into our employee practices,” he said. “We’re actively recruiting for two primary care positions in 2016 and we’ll be recruiting for two more in 2017.”
Fowler continued by saying that if the area doesn’t lose any primary care doctors in the next couple of years the addition of those new doctors to NNRH should make getting treatment easier for Medicare patients.
There isn’t any easy fix to the patient care problems facing Medicare recipients but Ackerman is hoping that people from different backgrounds meeting to discuss the issue can be a step in the right direction.
“They brought a whole bunch of diverse groups together,” he said. “When I look at from the time we started in this committee until now, there are a lot more opportunities for Medicare access. A lot of progress has been made because of Larry’s efforts.”