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“I’ve never seen so many Help Wanted signs”
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As part of a vaccine strategy announcement Tuesday, the Joe Biden administration announced plans to engage more pediatricians and family physicians into the effort. In rural parts of the country, where health care is less accessible, local doctors can play an especially important role.
Dr. Scott Anzalone, one of the 10 people we’ve been following in our series “United States of Work,” owns a small medical practice called Stagecoach Family Medicine in the small town of Logan, Ohio. The following is an edited transcript of Anzalone’s conversation with “Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal about changes he’s noticed lately in the local economy.
Kai Ryssdal: First of all, how’s business, you know, the past couple of three, four months at Stagecoach Family Medicine? How are you guys doing?
Scott Anzalone: We’re very busy. It’s exhausting at times, but we carry on, you know. We’re in a rural town and it’s very busy most every day.
Ryssdal: Are you just getting a whole slew of new patients? Is that what’s going on?
Anzalone: Well, yeah actually. Just recently, I’m getting probably between four and five new patient requests every single day.
Anzalone: I’ve been investigating to find out why, and it appears that we’ve had some, a couple physicians in neighboring communities that have left or retired.
Ryssdal: Well, I was gonna get to the labor market in Logan later on, but I’m going to go there right now. Because the last time you and I spoke, you had finally at long last found somebody to come in and, you know, maybe join your practice. Is that still happening?
Anzalone: Well, we’re still talking. Again, it’s a long process, trying to find someone that’s willing to come to a small town. I’ve got someone who’s finishing residency soon and [is] interested. However, being in private practice is scary to many new physicians. The uncertainty of medicine today is daunting to many.
Ryssdal: Yeah, which you would understand. Talk to me about the bigger picture in Logan, just in terms of what it’s like there after a year of pandemic. How are businesses doing?
Anzalone: Well, things seem to be back to going full strength. Our schools are back. We’ve been back almost every day except right before Christmas. All the businesses are currently open. The economy here is kind of crazy. I’ve been here for 21 years, and I’ve never seen so many Help Wanted signs. We’ve got industry that’s got signs up [offering] $20 an hour and full benefits. Every small business owner here, from our local pizza shop to our fast food places, they can’t find workers.
Ryssdal: You know, it’s funny, you mentioned $20 an hour because every time I do an interview with a businessperson and they say, “I can’t find anybody,” Twitter jumps all over me and says, “You have to ask him to pay more.” Twenty bucks an hour is not bad in a town like Logan, right?
Anzalone: No, I’m seeing signs for $18, $19, $20 an hour. Just yesterday, I saw an ad in the paper for another company and starting at $21 an hour with rapid raises and benefits.
Ryssdal: Do you think, and you know, I’ll acknowledge the detour I’m making here from talking to you as a small town physician to a guy who understands everything about the rural economy, but 10 years from now, as you look back on this pandemic, and maybe you’re retired nearby or whatever, but what’s Logan going to be like?
Anzalone: Well, I think it’s going to be a different community. The property values in Hocking County, where we live, are just at all-time highs, and everyone is cashing in on the rental vacation tourism. And we have a lot of people moving to our area that are actually retiring to this area. So that’s a dilemma. Back to our school. I sit on our school board. Yeah, we have, we have one of our fairly new elementary buildings that was needed when we built it a few years ago that it’s becoming empty because in that area out in that part of the county, everyone’s selling their land because we’re getting such good prices for it. And then those that are moving in are either buying it for building rental cabins or those who are retiring with no children. So the building started to become empty. So the demographics are changing.
Ryssdal: So as a guy who’s been around for a while, and my guess is you’ll probably retire there whenever that comes because you’ve been there for 21 years. Is that all right with you? Are these changes OK with you?
Anzalone: As long as it doesn’t, as long as we control it. You know, I don’t want to see strip malls and tourist traps. As long as we can keep that look or that feel to it, I think I’m OK with that, but … we still have to make sure that it’s still sustainable for those who live here.
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