Arizona Re-Issuing Medical Licenses May Not Help Doctor Shortage

Published: Friday, October 10, 2014 - 3:48pm
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The body that licenses doctors in Arizona this week decided to start re-issuing medical licenses. It had stopped last month because of a dispute over a new state law requiring criminal background checks for applicants.

Greg Vigdor, President and CEO of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association, said the resolution was important for the state.

"I think reasoned heads prevailed and we found an alternative way to move forward in solving that problem, and so the board is open for business again," Vigdor said. "That’s a really important thing and a good start for solving the bigger problem."

The law in question required the board to submit applicants’ fingerprints to the FBI for a background check, but the feds were balking. So the Medical Board decided that instead, it would require applicants to sign a notarized statement that they do not have criminal convictions. If that turns out to not be true, they’ll have their license revoked.

Vigdor said the board has a backlog of around 700 physicians waiting for licenses. It’s not clear how many of them were affected by the board essentially shutting down. Vigdor said the situation could have lasting damage.

"Us getting these 700 physicians though is not gonna solve our physician shortage, us not getting them through is gonna make it worse," Vigdor said. "And it certainly does send a message to applicants around the nation that this is a tough state to come to, and that’s the last thing we want."

Arizona is facing a doctor shortage and it’s likely that not all of the 700 physicians in the queue for a license will end up practicing here. Dan Derksen, Director of the Center for Rural Health at the University of Arizona Medical School, said the medical board’s work-around seems reasonable. But he said there has to be expectations about the time it takes to get a license.

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