For years, New Mexico has suffered from a chronic shortage of doctors, especially in the rural communities of the state.
Now, with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, plus the decision by Gov. Susana Martinez to approve Medicaid expansion and creation of state health care exchanges, up to 172,000 uninsured New Mexicans are expected to receive medical coverage in the coming year.
But who's going to treat them?
"It's a big problem and there's nothing in place to address that issue," Dr. Kathryn Zerbach, a Santa Fe surgeon who specializes in the treatment of breast cancer, told New Mexico Watchdog.
According to the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, New Mexico is short an estimated 2,000 physicians and roughly 400-600 primary care specialists.
The problem is especially acute in sparsely populated counties in the southern and northwestern parts of the state. In 2006, more than half the physicians in New Mexico were located in the state's largest county, Bernalillo County, where Albuquerque is located.