Participants in a roundtable discussion Monday in Springfield are seeking ways to combat a shortage of trained professionals in the healthcare industry. Among the issues raised by U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis and Illinois health professionals were immigration and education.

Davis, R-Taylorville, said the demand for nurses, doctors and facilities is going to explode as the Baby Boomer generation will demand more healthcare resources.

“We don’t have enough physicians, we don’t have enough nurses, and frankly we don’t have enough facilities in some areas of this state and the rural areas of this country,” Davis said.

The midday event featured doctors, administrators, nursing professionals, pharmacies and other professionals.

Loren Hughes, president of HSHS Medical Group, talked about some health professionals suffering from burnout because of paperwork and regulations. He also raised concerns about the impact immigration restrictions have on nurse and doctor shortages in Illinois.

“So anyone who went to a Caribbean school or another country’s medical system, they come back and they fight for a very limited number of spots,” Hughes said.

One idea Hughes suggested would be allowing a doctor’s practice abroad to count toward a residency requirement in the U.S.

Davis said he supported a bill a couple of weeks ago to address a current problem with the medical community when it comes to immigration, “with doctors who have been here on high-skilled visas whose families aren’t allowed to stay here if something were to happen to them.”

“That’s something that we need to fix,” Davis said.

Streamlining education for future health care professionals was also a topic.

Carol Dodson, chief nursing officer for Holy Family Hospital in Greenville, said there are some efforts to shorten the time it takes for students to become certified in the medical field.

“Such as providing some of your basic nursing classes in high school, in your senior year, for example,” Dodson said. “Work collaboratively in your junior colleges.”

But Dodson said larger hospitals have the resources to help facilitate that while such resources in smaller hospitals is lacking.

Others in the roundtable also discussed the challenges of getting Medicare reimbursement to cover expenses is hurting health care availability, the need for more behavioral health professionals and training of seniors to adapt to telemedicine, the need for more incentives to encourage doctors to practice in rural areas, and other issues.

Staff Reporter

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other statewide issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience, and previously hosted “Bishop On Air,” a morning-drive current events talk show.