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Displaced doctors a problem for New Orleans

Those who left may set up practices elsewhere and never return
/ Source: msnbc.com

In addition to the many problems it has caused, Hurricane Katrina could cause a shortage of doctors in New Orleans. It's estimated that more than 4,000 doctors have been displaced by the storm, which could pose a major problem when it comes to repopulating that city.

Dr. Thomas Ricketts, who led a study on the crisis facing New Orleans, is a professor at the Univ. of North Carolina School of Public Health and Medicine. He joined MSNBC's Randy Meier on Wednesday to discuss the health crisis, and what may happen in the Crescent City.

"There have been a lot of doctors who have had to leave New Orleans because of the evacuation. A lot did stay, but really what has happened is that they can not continue their practices in the city and in the surrounding community because they are just like the residents," Ricketts said. "They are without power, and in many instances, their offices and their facilities have been destroyed by flooding and by the storm."

Among those facilities are several of that city's large hospitals. Ricketts said that hospitals at Tulane, LSU and the Charity Hospital are still not open, along with many small clinics.

"Some clinics are completely destroyed and many private physicians offices are not able to be used, so the doctors have had to go elsewhere for practice," he said. "For the substantial number that are in training in New Orleans, they've had to go elsewhere to continue their training."

While many physicians are now up and practicing in other states in which they have licenses, others have moved to Texas, where the state board of medial examiners has allowed Louisiana physicians to work with a sponsor.

The longer physicians stay away from New Orleans, the worse the problem could be in attracting them back, Ricketts said.

"The one thing that has happened is that communities and recruiting firms have learned that these physicians have had to look for work elsewhere, and they're being very aggressive in trying to identify these physicians and recruit them," he said.

"The doctors in New Orleans and Louisiana are being recruited by other communities because there is still a tight supply of physicians in the United States," Ricketts said. "That's probably going to get worse in the future. "

To watch the full interview between Ricketts and Meier, click on the "Launch" button above and to the right. with and can be seen weekdays from 9 a.m.-Noon.