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Report: Florida facing shortage of nearly 18,000 doctors

The state's rapidly growing population paired with retirement projections show Florida is in desperate need of more physicians.

TAMPA, Fla. — The population of Tampa Bay is growing rapidly. It's easy to see why. 

Beautiful weather, sports champions and gorgeous beaches are alluring to newcomers. The influx of new neighbors, while exciting, has some downsides. Housing is becoming scarce and rents are rapidly rising.

Another effect of population growth in Florida is a growing shortage of doctors.

The Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida and the Florida Hospital Association conducted research and found that if current trends continue, Florida would be short 17,924 physicians by the year 2035. 

"We've got a rapidly growing population but the demographic segments that are growing the fastest are over 65, so over the next 14-15 years those are people that need the physician services the most," said Justin Senior, CEO of Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida.

Senior says planned retirements, along with Florida's growing population are factors in the projected shortage. 

This comes alongside a projected shortage of 59,100 nurses by 2035 and 425,000 staffing losses in residential care facilities since September of 2020.

The numbers of medical professionals leaving the industry could even be higher because the data doesn't take into account the number of people who have left or plan to leave the field because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The shortage of physicians means healthcare becomes more expensive and wait times to see a doctor become even longer. 

"When supply and demand become imbalanced, the price starts to rise significantly and that creates access concerns," said Senior.

Decreased accessibility will increase healthcare disparity, especially for those who already may be struggling to find it. 

Senior says the solution is immediate changes in funding for education and residency programming.

"When you think about how you solve it you need to look long term because the people who are going to become specialists and sub-specialists in 2035 are probably freshmen in college right now," said Senior. 

He says medical leaders are pushing Florida's legislature to allocate funding as soon as possible.

Increasing funding for training and residency programs now ensures that doctors will have all the skills and training necessary to provide care to Florida's population as older doctors retire.