BULLHEAD CITY — It’s an ambitious plan and one that is going to have a lot of moving parts but in the end, it can benefit the Mohave County community and the surrounding areas.
“I feel like we need to do a lot in Mohave County to reform for healthcare so it came in my mind to bring all the hospitals in Mohave County and the adjacent area together and with the help of some government officials to make the Mohave Health Coalition,” said Dr. Waheed H. Zehri, chief of staff at Western Arizona Regional Medical Center. “We would come together to discuss all the issues and how we can help this community to make healthcare better for the population.”
Zehri said that the No. 1 problem in a rural area, not just Bullhead City, is the lack of physicians.
“The ratio between the patient and physician is almost 2,000-1 and it normally should be like 600-1,” said Zehri. “A lot of physicians come to here for a reason like visa purposes or loan repayment and then they leave town. So it’s hard to retain the physician here in the area and Mohave County. We have to find a way to retain and recruit the physician in our rural area.”
The second problem that Zehri said he has observed is that it is hard to recruit and retain nurses in the area as well.
The first Mohave Health Coalition meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Anderson Auto Group Fieldhouse with a dinner provided by WARMC. The meeting is invitation-only meeting and one that Zehri said he hopes will be productive.
“I’ve invited the mayors of Bullhead City, Laughlin, Kingman, Lake Havasu, Parker and Needles,” said Zehri. “I’ve also invited CEO, chief of staff and president of the boards of the Lake Havasu hospital, Kingman hosptial, WARMC, Valley View, La Paz/Parker hospital, Colorado River Medical Center and Talas Harbor hospitals. I also invited representatives from Paul Gosar’s office, representatives from (Sens.) Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema as well as our county supervisor, Hildy Anguis, as well as Annie Marie Ward (a candidate for Congress).”
Other topics that Zehri is to pose to the coalition are how to start a residency program for the physician in the small hospitals, like Kingman has done; how there can be a better loan repayment program in the area; visa waivers for specialists; how to start a strong residency for the nursing graduates; and establishing a specialization center in each city, such as a diabetic center, that can treat patients locally.
“We have a lack of primary care physicians, lack of specialists; like we don’t have a diabetic doctor here or gastroenterologist in Bullhead,” Zehri said. “We also have a lot of patients transfer all over Mohave County to Las Vegas or Phoenix. If 10 patients come with a problem and we need to transfer them then all, the family leaves with them. So we need to work to do something and we can’t continue to do this.”
The theme for the coalition is to work together with all the hospitals, physicians, government officials to see how they can make a difference.
“I hope that we will get something out of this Mohave Health Coalition and get input from the leaders that can help in the community to reform our health and helping our people in the area so they don’t have to travel and be helped locally,” said Zehri. “My function here is only as a mediator to bring everything to the table for discussion and then try to get ideas and information from all these people.”
Zehri said that if there is going to be a significant change it will involve the city, county, state and federal governments.
“This is a big project, it’s exciting, it is very complicated and it will involve a lot of people,” said Zehri. “It will take a lot of legislation that will take a long process but someone had to start and that’s what I’m doing. This is just to make a difference to do things to help the community.”