Medical practice in state is on life support
Dr. Bruce A. Bethancourt Jr

Lawyer Thomas M. Ryan’s recent column is more of the tired gamesmanship that only cheapens the depressing realities that face doctors and patients in Arizona’s crumbling medical system (“Vanishing physician scenario is a myth,” Viewpoints, Sunday).

The economic truth behind the scenes of the doctor-patient relationship is that the practice of medicine in our state is on life support, while the health care industry from Wall Street to Washington suffocates those of us on the front lines.

I’m a practicing internist trying to survive in the trenches, and I sat on the same the same governor’s task force on emergency services as Ryan. He and I listened to the same testimony, and I’m truly stunned, even sickened, by the way he manipulated the data regarding the severe physician shortage Arizona is experiencing.

While he correctly states that our doctor population has risen, he chose to leave out the key fact that our physician workforce is well below the national physician-to-patient ratio, a dangerous precedent. And as our population continues to grow and age – as recent Census data has shown it shall – this discrepancy will only worsen, increasing the severity of citizens’ inability to access timely medical care.

It is amazing that Ryan pleaded for truth as we work to find solutions to this frightening crisis, yet he chose to twist the truth. This type of behavior is exactly the reason why we are having such difficulty finding a solution, and why the vanishing doctor is no myth; it’s reality for many Arizonans and many more to come – very soon.

Dr. Bruce A. Bethancourt Jr., Phoenix
The writer is past president of the Arizona Medical Association.
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