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Panel Tells Murray That Area Needs Health Care Workers

There is no shortage of need for health care professionals in Southwest Washington.

The region could use more nurses, more radiologists, pharmacists, physical therapists, medical assistants and educators, and more internal medicine and primary care physicians, according to a panel Monday afternoon at Washington State University Vancouver.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., organized the discussion. She plans similar meetings in Tacoma and Spokane in the days ahead.

"Everywhere I go in the state, I hear the same thing you do," she said of health care access, affordability and employment.

The area's doctors, recruiters and educators outlined the greatest challenges.

Vicki Owen, senior recruitment specialist for Legacy Health System, said nursing makes up a large portion of the need, with many nurses expected to retire within the next decade. Dr. Gil Rodriguez, chief medical officer at Southwest Washington Medical Center, said primary care is the biggest need, but specialists such as urologists will become more necessary as the male population continues aging.

He said only about 200 to 250 new urologists enter the profession nationally each year.

"We should double or triple that amount," he said.

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