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Officials address doctor shortage in unprecedented joint meeting

Posted at 6:25 PM, Mar 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-11 21:43:42-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — A meeting of minds at the Clark County Government Center addressed the have's and the have not's of the medical field in Southern Nevada Wednesday addressing issues ranging from development of the Las Vegas Medical District to a severe statewide shortage of doctors.

At hand were the Las Vegas City Council, Clark County Commission, UNLV School of Medicine, University Medical Center, and Las Vegas Medical District.

Bill Lawrence, director of economic development for the City of Las Vegas, said the Las Vegas Medical District has grown substantially since its inception in 2002 streamlining medical systems in the nearly 700 acre plot of land, but at least one glaring issue remains in the system.

"We lag behind," Lawrence said, "we lag behind with physicians in the community."

Nevada ranks 47th among states in the number of working physicians compared to population size.

Lawrence said just to get to the median number of physicians per 100,000 people the state would need to bring in 1,679 doctors.

"We have some great physicians in Southern Nevada and Clark County," he said, "but we need more of them."

Dr. John Fildes, interim dean of the UNLV School of Medicine, said planned construction of a new medical school building along Shadow Lane could help plug gaps in the system by training doctors in Southern Nevada and encouraging them to begin their residencies in the Las Vegas Valley.

"What we want to do is train our own," Fildes said, "because when we're challenged by things like the coronavirus we want to have a much deeper bench."

Fildes said the medical school can only accept 60 students per year before the new building is constructed, but that number would double to 120 at completion.

"We expand the size of our classes, we expand our residents, and begin to keep doctors in Nevada," he said.

Fildes said the system needs to be in place well before a pandemic like the COVID-19 strain of coronavirus emerges to be effective, but it's never too late to begin filling the gaps.

"Quick moving infections like H1N1 or the coronavirus don't really give the community much time to ramp up," he said, "we have to have our assets in place, and that's really what this is about."

Fildes said the first class of medical residents would graduate in May of 2021, and they plan to break ground on the new medical building some time in the same year.