March 13, 2006
Doctor is 'in' for Rio Vista residents
By Sarah Arnquist
RIO VISTA - This small river town's population has more than doubled in the last five years, and its elderly population is growing six times faster than any other Solano County city, yet Rio Vista has only one doctor.
Dr. Daniel Ferrick, a family practice doctor with 19 years experience practicing in Fairfield, started seeing patients full time in Rio Vista last fall. Before November 2005, the town went a year-and-a-half without a permanent physician.
Residents are pleased to have a full-time physician in town and he is extremely busy, Ferrick said.
"The town itself is big enough to need more physicians, and it's growing like crazy," he said. "People don't want to go far for their health care."
Rio Vista's population is expected to double again by 2030 to nearly 20,000 people and its elderly population will increase by 600 percent, according to data from the Association of Bay Area Governments.
Rio Vista Mayor Eddie Woodruff said one doctor is not enough.
"We have an aging population here, and many of them are having to travel to other cities for medical care," he said.
Rio Vista residents who don't see Dr. Ferrick must travel at least 20 miles to places such as Lodi or Fairfield for their health care.
The Sutter Regional Medical Foundation operates Rio Vista's medical office and has plans to bring more doctors to town, said John Ray, foundation chief executive officer. The foundation's long-term plan is to build a new medical office building for at least four primary care doctors. The short-term plan is to expand physician hours, he said.
"It is a community we are going to invest in, and it's worth investing in," Ray said.
Rio Vista's isolated location, expanding elderly population and limited transportation in and out of town heighten the need for local doctors, said Terri Restelli-Deits, a planner at the Area Agency on Aging serving Napa and Solano counties.
"Because of the projection of growth in frail seniors is so high, having something local without taking a long bus trip and transferring once or twice will be very much in demand," Restelli-Deits said.
Solano County as a whole has fewer doctors than the statewide average. The county has about 1.8 doctors for every 1,000 residents compared with the statewide average of 2.6 doctors per 1,000 residents.
Recruiting physicians to Northern California is a challenge because of lower than average reimbursement rates and the high cost of living, Ray said. Sutter Regional Medical Foundation has a focused and well-funded physician recruitment effort. The challenge of bringing doctors to Rio Vista is finding those who prefer small-town life, he said.
Reach Sarah Arnquist at 427-6953 or email@example.com.
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