State's doctor shortage needs emergency step

April 16, 2013

By The Bakersfield Californian

Today, California needs 2,000 more doctors. Tomorrow, it will need even more than that. Additional medical schools will help, but they won't help fast enough.

What California needs is an expansion of the duties of nurse practitioners, physician assistants, pharmacists, optometrists and other health professionals.

State Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, would like to do exactly that. Hernandez, who is the chairman of the state Senate Health Committee, has proposed legislation that would allow many of those with licensed medical expertise to treat patients more directly, though only in their areas of specialty.

Seventeen states already allow this sort of expanded authority and, despite dire warnings, medical errors have not increased.

The shortage is especially grievous in the Central Valley and Kern County in particular. California needs to take this step -- quickly.