Deep ETX working to solve healthcare shortages

Deep ETX working to solve healthcare shortages

EAST TEXAS (KTRE) - Deep East Texas senior citizens say this the perfect place for a calm and peaceful retirement or lifestyle in general, but a state elected official pointed out the irony between the aging population and its lack of healthcare.

The peace, quiet, spaciousness, and nostalgic feel are reasons Deep East Texas counties have more citizens over 65 than the rest of Texas.

"We've lived around this area probably 30 or 35 years," said Lillie Sowell, an East Texas senior.  "There are a lot of people that retire just like us. We like it here."

Texas Comptroller, Glenn Hegar, recognized an issue for these retirees during his Good for Texas Tour.

"East Texas has a higher percentage of that age, so what does that mean? You need more healthcare," Hegar said.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports 11.5% of Texans over 65. Every Deep East Texas county tops that percentage. Half of them double the number.

"It's almost ironic going the opposite direction that you have fewer providers when you have a higher need," Hegar said.

Hefner said a few factors contribute to the shortage.

"Kids coming out of their training programs like to go to the glitz and glamor of the big cities," said Rick Hefner, the Vice President of Physician Enterprise.

Lufkin's hospital see's patients from all over East Texas, but Hefner said there is still a need in their immediate areas.

"It's a lot easier to go to the doctor here than Apple Springs or anywhere you might live in that area," Sowell said.

The commutes from the comfortable community can be costly.

Hefner said the plan in place is their recruiter dedicated to filling East Texas provider needs. He said with nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other extenders, the need can be fulfilled in Deep East Texas's future.

Hefner says there are only about 250 total physicians in the area.

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