Commentary: Alaska needs to compete for doctors

This editorial appeared in The Anchorage Daily News.

A group of health care professionals, working over the past several months, has taken a big step to overcome a critical shortage of health care workers in Alaska: They've come up with a plan to lure such workers north. Forty-four of the 50 states already offer doctors, nurses or other health workers financial incentives, such as student loan repayment, to come practice in their states.

We don't.

"In this state, so far all we do is give them a brochure with a nice glacier on it," says Robert Sewell, a health planner for the state who has researched loan repayments and other incentives.

"We're losing the battle with other states," says Shelley Hughes of the Alaska Primary Care Association.

A group co-chaired by Hughes and Rod Betit of the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association says the state can fix that by offering to pay back student loans, or even give straight monetary incentives, to as many as 90 health care and social work professionals a year.

The 90 would be promised a total of three years worth of incentives, as long as they stayed on the job. The cost: $7.1 million.

If those 90 slots don't fill the shortages, the state can seek more money to continue offering the incentives.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Anchorage Daily News.