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In the last two days, two newspapers have run long stories on the shortage of primary health care docs in rural areas. Both stories are set in Texas. The Washington Post piece is here. We kinda like the one that came out today in the Dallas Morning News. Maybe it’s because of how Gretel C. Kovach describes Dr. J. Scott Crockett of Marlin, Texas (above): “After moving to Marlin 16 years ago, Crockett, 51, wore out his white lab coat and never bought another. Today, a stranger visiting during one of his 24-hour hospital shifts might mistake him for a patient, with his faded black motorcycle sweatshirt, graying stubble, silver hoop earrings, and long hair falling from a ball cap.”
That’s our kind of doc! Kovach tells how the number of rural clinics has been declining in Texas, dwindling from about 500 to 316. As Medicaid and Medicare payments dropped for rural health care, so did the number of clinics. Kovach notes that the health care reform bill in Congress will help by reducing the number of uninsured, but that what rural legislators are most concerned with is Medicare reimbursement rates.
Kovach captures the joy rural docs find in their work. “The human side of it, the people, they make this practice,” Dr. Dileep Bhateley explains. “It’s not the procedures, not the E.R. It is the happiness I get interacting with all these people I have grown to know over all these years. People depend on you in the country. They put a lot of faith in you.” Or as biker-doctor Scott Crockett says, “Here, we’re all family. They want me for what I know, not what I look like.” Check out the slideshow.