Areas of minimal access to surgical care, often called "surgical deserts", are of particular concern when considering the need for urgent surgical and anesthesia care. We hypothesized that California would have an appropriate workforce density but that physicians would be concentrated in urban areas, and surgical deserts would exist in rural counties.We used a benchmark of six general surgeons, six orthopedists, and eight anesthesiologists per 100,000 people per county to define a "desert". The number and location of these providers were obtained from the Medical Board of California for 2015. ArcGIS, version 10.3, was used to geocode the data and were analyzed in Redivis.There were a total of 3268 general surgeons, 3188 orthopedists, and 5995 anesthesiologists in California in 2015, yielding a state surgeon-to-population ratio of 7.2, 6.7, and 10.2 per 100,000 people, respectively; however, there was wide geographic variability. Of the 58 counties in California, 18 (31%) have a general surgery desert, 27 (47%) have an orthopedic desert, and 22 (38%) have an anesthesiology desert. These counties account for 15%, 25%, and 13% of the state population, respectively. Five, seven, and nine counties, respectively, have none in the corresponding specialty.Overall, California has an adequate ratio of surgical and anesthesia providers to population. However, because of their uneven distribution, significant surgical care deserts exist. Limited access to surgical and anesthesia providers may negatively impact patient outcome in these counties.
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