Legislation encourages retired physicians to volunteer services

Posted: Wednesday, March 10, 2004

KENAI - A bill aiding physicians and other health care providers who want to remain in Alaska and volunteer their services is awaiting action in a Senate committee.

House Bill 260, introduced last year by Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, could encourage doctors to deliver free health care services after they retire by exempting those services from malpractice liability.

The proposed law would provide protection from civil liability for an act or omission during the delivery of free services.

"HB 260 would allow health care providers to donate their professional services at a lower personal cost," Seaton said in a sponsor statement. "HB 260 will be especially helpful to retiring health professionals who wish to donate their services but do not still carry medical malpractice insurance. Forty-three other states have enacted similar legislation."

With an estimated 186 doctors per 100,000 Alaska residents, Alaska ranks 49th among states in the number of physicians per capita. The average age of doctors is 51.

Alaska has struggled to attract an adequate number of physicians. Many of the most experienced medical professionals will retire in the next five to 10 years, according to information gathered by Seaton's office.

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