Growing Gap Between Number of Latino Doctors & Growing Latino Population

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH (ABC 4 UTAH) – In ten years, 2025, there will be a 90,000 doctor shortage in the US.  This according to a report from an association of medical schools.  That means longer wait times like weeks or even months to see a doctor and for the Latino population, that rate is even worse.  According to a UCLA report, there are 51 million Latinos in the country, but only 15 Latino doctors per 100,000 Hispanics.

Rosalba Alvarado feels lucky to get her healthcare in her native language.  

“Si eso si me fascina, me gusta pues porque ahorita es el espanol y poco a poco tendre que ir aprendiendo lo que es el ingles. Ya entenderlo practicamente”  or “Yes, that fascinates me. I like it because right now it’s Spanish and little by little i’ll have to learn English, to understand it,” said Rosalba Alvarado.
While the Latino-Hispanic population makes up 14% of Utah.

“I can tell you there’s very very little providers,” said Clinica Media Familiar Administrative Coordinator Carolina Ramirez.

Phone call after phone call floods into Comunidades Unidas in West Valley City with Latinos asking Women’s Health Manager Vicky Fuentes for healthcare help.

“A lot of times hospitals don’t offer interpreters or anyone who speaks the language,” said Comunidades Unidas Women’s Health Manager Vicky Fuentes.

As the gap between latino doctors and a growing Latino population gets larger, Comunidades Unidas deploys a special team.

“We have a group of our community health workers who are bilingual and they understand the culture and when it’s needed they will go to the hospitals for the interpretation,” said Fuentes.

Health professionals here at Clinica Medica Familiar say it’s not just about speaking the language or having brochures in Spanish, but bridging the gap between culture barriers.

“Usually your visits are probably half an hour and you talk to the provider face to face. when you come here you see all the assistants but you don’t see the provider more than a couple of minutes, maybe five. So that’s a big difference,”said Ramirez.

Coming to the doctor is already a challenge for many.  Seeing someone who you don’t understand and doesn’t understand you could be pretty difficult.

“Puede ser que si, por ahorita. pero puede ser que ya mas despues no.” or “Yeah it could be, especially now, but then later, no,” said Alvarado.

The remedy for this is simple.  Kids who study science and then head to medical school have the cure.

“We need someone that can tell us, we can do it, that it is something that is possible to be accomplished and we definitely need more openings for medical school,” said Ramirez.

The Mexican Consulate located in Salt Lake City does walk-in screenings for spanish-speaking Utahns.  You can get a check-up, blood work, or other services at the health booth.

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