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Sen. Missy Irvin discusses the Buffalo River, physician shortage in Arkansas

Tourism at places like the Buffalo National River in north Arkansas is expected to benefit from the federal grants announced Monday.
Michael Hibblen
Tourism at places like the Buffalo National River in north Arkansas is expected to benefit from the federal grants announced Monday.

Buffalo River

Earlier this year, the Runway Group, a holding company that was founded by Steuart and Tom Walton, spoke to U.S Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, about designating the land near the Buffalo River as a national park, according to the Arkansas Advocate.

In an interview with KARK Channel 4’s Capitol View, State Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, and whose district houses the Buffalo River, said there is pushback for the idea to designate the land as a national park.

“A lot of these families have homesteads in that area. Back when the Buffalo National River was designated, land was taken away from them,” she said. “It was a very tough time for many of those people. Those wounds are very deep. Unfortunately, a poll dropped out of the sky and it really ripped those wounds back open.”

Westerman, chair of the Natural Resources Committee, said he would not support making the land near the Buffalo National River as a national park without the support of locals.

Physician Shortage

Irvin, chair of the Senate Public Health Committee, said the state is facing a shortage of new doctors entering into practice in the state.

Irvin said the lack of residency programs makes it difficult to bring new doctors into the state and keep medical students in the state. She added the shortage of new doctors puts a strain on doctors that are already practicing in Arkansas.

“I think there are six counties right now in the state of Arkansas that have only one full-time care physician. Those folks are on call 24/7, whether there’s a hospital there or not. That’s a lot to ask for a person with their family and everything to be on call 24/7,” she said.

Earlier this year, Arkansas’ U.S Senator John Boozman, a Republican, helped reintroduce the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act, which would raise the cap on the amount of residency programs that Medicare can fund for schools like the University for Medical Sciences. The bill has yet to pass.

According to the National Institute of Health, 34 out of the 50 states are facing a physician shortage.

Ronak Patel is a reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.
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