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Doctor shortage forces Eureka Pediatrics to close

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HUMBOLDT COUNTY, Clif. - After 50 years of service, Eureka Pediatrics is closing its doors.

This leaves parents like Lucas Burleigh rushing to find a new doctor for their children before clinics close on Dec. 31.

"So far it's been great finding pediatricians, but we are going to have to find one now that Eureka Pediatrics is closing," Burleigh said. "They were really great. I don't why they're closing but they were really great."

Eureka Pediatrics is closing two locations: one in McKinleyville and the other in Eureka.

"The factors leading to our decision to dissolve the practice are numerous and complicated, but most significant has been our inability to recruit physicians," the clinic said in a press release.

Eureka pediatrics said they went from having nine providers to just five in a relatively short period of time.

According to Penny Figas, executive director for the Humboldt-Del Norte County Medical Society, lack of physicians is a countywide issue. "Both Humboldt and Del Norte counties are federally designated as shortage areas," Figas said. "We have a geographic healthcare manpower shortage."

Figas said it is typical nationwide for rural areas to have a hard time recruiting and retaining doctors.

"We have an aging physician population that we're hoping will turn around," Figas said. "But as we lose physicians in the community, it's up to those who are left practicing to absorb the patients that are needing medical care."

She said this issue leads to overworked healthcare providers and long waiting periods for patients.

"We do have a few other clinics in the area that are probably already at capacity as well," Figas said. Figas said the physician shortage affects all age groups, but local mom Keif Chevera believes it's especially difficult to get medical care for children. She said she has to drive six hours to get proper care for her son.

"I have to go to the children's hospital for my son right now, because they found a growth in the back of his head," Chevera said. "Neurologists up here won't see pediatric patients. In fact, if you're under 18 you can't get into the MRI up here through neurology. You have to go down south." The five remaining doctors said they plan on staying in the area. They are currently talking with Open Door Community Health Center about possibilities for the future. "People who are having babies are going to have a difficult time and there's going to be a long waiting list at open door and other practices that take younger kids," Figas said. "It's not going to be good."

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