State Lawmaker: We need more doctors and nurses

ER Doc uses experience to write Legislation to fill Florida's nursing shortage

By Mike Holfeld - Investigative Reporter

State Rep. Cary Pigman (R) of Avon Park, has seen the demands of a hospital emergency room first hand and he’s working to reverse the overcrowding trend here in central Florida and across the state.

“What  I’m trying to do is fundamentally change how we provide care so that we enhance access and improve outcomes,” Pigman says.

[WEB EXTRAS: Proposed legislation | Direct primary care | Florida Center for Nursing | VIDEO: Extended interview ]

The former chief resident at Georgetown University  and  currently an  emergency medicine specialist in Sebring, Florida,  has introduced state legislation that in theory would ease the nursing shortage  by creating a nursing network or  ”compact” with 25 other states.

HB 1061 calls for the state to join the Nurse Licensure Compact which allows nurses licensed in other states to practice in Florida via a multi-state license. The measure unanimously passed both the Health Care subcommittee and the Health and Human Services Committee last month.

Pigman says 5 other states have similar measures which means the nursing talent pool  could be boosted by the thousands.

“By being a party state to this multi-state compact,”  Pigman says. “We have instant access to the electronic records of all the party states participants, all the nurses that are registered which means the state will have even more access to other professionals.”

The Florida Center for Nursing recently completed a survey of hospitals and health care facilities that
projects “a need” of 22,000 experienced nurses this year.

Mary Lou Brunell, executive director of  FCN, says much of the shortage can be linked to an aging nurse population, simply put, they are cutting back hours and in some cases retiring.

“We absolutely have a shortage and the greatest need can not necessarily be met by expanding our education programs.”

Dr. Maribel Aviles of Innova Medical Care in Orlando says she  agrees both the shortages of physicians and nurses is very real.   In her  view  House Bill 1061 could ease the immediate demand. 

“I love it, we need this legislation,” she says.

Aviles walked away from her Orlando practice late last year when she found the demands of her 2500 patients were taking away from the personal care and time she wanted to provide.

“I can actually give you the month, November 2015, I said no more," Aviles said.

Aviles was considering another profession when she was approached with a unique business model called direct primary care.

Aviles says there are no more scenes of frustrated patients waiting an hour or more to be seen.

“You see me anytime, we connect through Skype. We connect through emails, you need to see me today? I’ll see you today. You need to see me tomorrow? I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Aviles calls it “a better way to practice medicine” given the shortage of doctors and nurses she has seen in her 17 years of practicing medicine in Central Florida.

"We need people (to be) accessible it’s not just numbers, the accessibility is the issue.”

Rep. Pigman agrees pointing to emergency rooms becoming a patient’s last resort.

“The physician shortage means you can’t get into see a doctor so your chronic medical condition tends to deteriorate so you come to the emergency department in crisis.”

HB 1061 could be voted on in the full house as early as next Tuesday.

 

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