The critical issues of medicine are to develop a better system of
delivery to rural areas and training more family practitioners.
The solutions are not
Those are the conclusions of Dr. Kenneth Whittington, Bethany,
traveled throughout the United States while serving as president
of the 73,000-
member American Academy of Family Physicians. Whittington
concluded his term
as president of the national academy late last year but still
serves an active role in an
Whittington operates a family practice at 7330 NW 23rd St., where
he is now
caring for grandchildren of his first family of patients. He has
practiced at that
location since completing his internship in 1969 and even had the
nurse, Betty Hafner, throughout those years.
"I've been to Rhode Island, and Rhode Island doesn't have any
problems, because it doesn't have any rural areas. Everyone there
is within about
12 to 15 miles of a hospital, but that is the only place I haven't
seen a problem,"
The gap appears to be widening between high technology in the
medical field and
the ability of the system to provide simple, basic medical care in
the rural areas, he
High costs of obtaining a medical education may be a major factor
encourages young doctors to enter specialty fields rather than
physicians, he said. Quicker returns on their education investment
can be realized
from higher fees they can command in specialized areas of
medicine. This helps
them more quickly alleviate the problems of high debt many incur
education, he said.
Medical schools are encouraging too many young doctors to enter
fields. They must encourage more to become family physicians in
order to meet the
basic medical needs of the rural areas, he said.
He cited the general aging of the population as a factor
contributing to the health-
care crisis in the rural areas because the elderly generally
require more health
services. The complications of health insurance, Medicare and
organizations also contribute to the problems, he said.
"HMOs (health maintenance organizations) actually limit more of
the access to
medical services by limiting the doctors or services people can