Health care has become a complicated topic, but one aspect of access to care that state lawmakers should address is the shortage of medical specialists in Oklahoma. With more specialty doctors, the state could better serve the unique medical needs of all Oklahomans.
The perfect tool already exists to attract these specialists to the state. The Oklahoma Quick Action Closing Fund has successfully been used to attract a Macy’s distribution center to Tulsa. This same fund could be used to attract what I’d call the Kevin Durants of medicine.
Durant, despite playing in a smaller media market, is a national star because of his considerable abilities. Oklahoma is drawing interest from around the country because of its professional basketball team. The state and local leaders who worked together to recruit the team made a slam dunk.
Big stars also exist in the field of medicine. Right now, when your loved one is sick from a life-threatening illness, specialty hospitals around the country are what come to mind first. For example, the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and St. Jude’s Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., are sought after nationally by families afflicted by cancer. These hospitals are a tremendous resource for those families and huge drivers of economic activity in their communities, just like the Oklahoma City Thunder is in Oklahoma City.
Too often, the first hospitals that come to mind nationally are not the hospitals here in Oklahoma. Yet the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metropolitan areas are home to fine hospitals. However, the state needs nationally sought-after specialists to create first-class health care communities. Instead we have severe shortages, particularly in the area of pediatric specialties. Fewer than 20 pediatric psychiatrists practice in Oklahoma and not one board-certified pediatric rheumatologist.
Recruiting key specialists would be a long-term project and take the efforts of state and local leaders. The payoff would be building on an already growing biomedical industry in Oklahoma and at the same time increasing the access of Oklahomans to health care. This state should become a place families seek out for specialty care.
My House Bill 3020 would expand the appropriate use of the Oklahoma Quick Action Closing Fund to include attracting board-certified specialists to Oklahoma. The legislation is an opportunity to grow the biomedical industry in Oklahoma and increase the competition and quality of our medical climate.
We all know that the Thunder is a big feather in Oklahoma City’s cap and a driver of economic activity. By bringing in top-quality specialists, we can serve the precise medical needs of Oklahomans and grow an industry around specialty care. To do so, we simply must expand the use of a tool currently in the toolbox.
Roberts, R-Hominy, represents District 36 in the Oklahoma House. HB 3020 is pending after passage by the House Appropriations and Budget Committee.