SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Local health care leaders say there is a doctor shortage in California, and if something isn't done soon to reverse the trend, the situation will only get worse.
In the last 20 years, the number of physicians at retirement age has tripled but, the number of new doctors has stayed flat for decades. If the trend continues, it could affect your ability to find a doctor down the road.
"I think that is something we could see in the future, older doctors stop taking patients. They don't have younger physicians to take their practice. In the end, patients have a hard time finding a primary care doctor," said Dr. Charity Thoman with the Santa Barbara County Medical Society.
And, to make matters worse, California's population is growing.
Health care leaders say the shortage is primarily family practitioners, general practice doctors and pediatricians.
Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed legislation that helps new doctors repay their school loans and get a medical license faster if they are willing to work in the most underserved communities, such as Riverside County.
The Santa Barbara County Medical Association believes more needs to be done.