Ratio of Hispanic Physicians to Hispanic Residents in California Widening
The disparity between the number of Hispanic physicians and the "rapidly growing" Hispanic population in California has reached a "critical" point, the Orange County Register reports. Hispanic physicians make up 4.8% of the doctors licensed in the state, while the state population is more than 30% Hispanic, according to a 1999 study led by Dr. David Hayes-Bautista of the Center for the Study of Latino Health at the University of California-Los Angeles. That means there are approximately 2,893 Hispanic residents for each Hispanic physician, compared with 335 non-Hispanic residents for every one non-Hispanic physician. The gap is expected to widen, the Register reports. This year, the number of minorities applying to the nation's medical schools fell by 4.5%; University of California medical schools report a "similar" decline. "It's gotten worse, and it's going to get much worse," Hayes-Bautista said.
To help close the gap, a statewide initiative is providing $7.8 million to increase outreach and services for minorities applying to medical schools. In addition, a group called the Consortium of Physicians from Latin America has worked with educational institutions over the last 10 years to train more than 2,000 immigrants to be nurses, physician assistants or other care providers. The group also lobbies for legislation that would create similar groups across the state. In addition, a bill (AB 1045) sponsored by Assembly member Marco Firebaugh (D-Los Angeles) would allow doctors licensed in Mexico or the Caribbean to practice at not-for-profit clinics in "communities that need doctors." However, "many issues need to be worked out to address concerns about the skirting of state licensing requirements designed to protect patients," the Register reports. A 1980 General Accounting Office study recommended that Congress and state licensing authorities "tighte[n]" requirements for immigrant doctors after finding that "the education provided by medical schools outside of the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico varied widely" (Canto, Orange County Register, 11/18).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.