U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin has a plan to bring more doctors to southe - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin has a plan to bring more doctors to southern Illinois

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CARBONDALE (WSIL) -- U.S. Senator Dick Durbin is touring several areas of southern Illinois. One stop included Shawnee Health Service in Carbondale where he participated in a round table discussion.

Patsy Jensen from Shawnee Health Service says they're in need of doctors, psychiatrists, and dentists. 

"The demand is so great for dental care in Southern Illinois that we can't recruit and we can't expand and so we had to limit the patients because we're backed up six to eight months," says Jensen. 

Durbin says he's working on ways to attract medical experts to this area. He's proposing a new loan forgiveness award in which doctors, dentists, behavioral health clinicians, and other health care professionals can have up to five years' worth of their medical school student loan debt forgiven.

He explains, "So there would be an enticement there for more loan forgiveness for a longer period of service."

Durbin says 20 percent of Americans live in rural communities, yet only 11 percent of physicians practice in rural settings.

Jim Johnson, the CEO of Franklin Hospital, says he doesn't have a shortage now but is planning for the future, "These programs will help us bring in younger physicians that hopefully will stay in the area for a long time."

Durbin says success takes time and he's hoping to get more help from federal officials after the next election, "I'm hoping that a new congress, not this one, but a new congress is ready to be cooperative with a new president. Whose willing to sit down and talk about positive changes that we can make in healthcare."

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