Hawaii lost 51 full-time doctors over the last year, continuing a physician shortage across the state, according to a workforce survey.
The latest physician workforce survey by the University of Hawaii shows the state has about 2,900 full-time doctors, about 800 doctors short of the number needed across all specialties.
This year's loss is the first since 2014 when 92 doctors left the workforce, according to the survey. The state added 75 doctors last year, 97 in 2016 and four in 2015.
Oahu is short 384 doctors, and the Big Island needs 213, according to the survey. Maui needs 141 and Kauai needs 59.
A number of factors have contributed to the shortage, including better pay elsewhere, complicated insurance payment systems and requirements, and increasingly burdensome medical regulations, said university professor Kelley Withy, who conducts the survey.
"This just makes it more challenging for patients to get the care they need when they need it, which could end in significant health impairments and patient suffering," Withy said.
When 67-year-old Poni Medeiros was diagnosed with advanced-stage cancer in March, her daughter Nicole Pagan called nearly a dozen oncologists. The earliest appointment the Maui resident could schedule was more than two months later, Pagan said.
"Those days were spent not only with me wrapping my head around the diagnosis not knowing what it meant, but also frantically calling anybody," Pagan told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Pagan's mother died about two weeks later. Because Medeiros wasn't able to see an oncologist, the family doesn't know where the root of the cancer was, Pagan said.