FAIRMONT - On a rotating basis, five neurologists are commuting from Mankato's Mayo Clinic Health System site to Fairmont.
Every Friday, one of the specialists makes the drive, and though the arrangement just began, already their schedules are booked several months out.
"As the population gets older, the demand for neurologists is going up and up and up, but the supply of neurologists is flat. That's why it's so hard to recruit," said Dr. Andrew Reeves.
Eight years ago, Reeves used to travel once a week to Fairmont to provide neurology services, and he had trouble keeping up at that time. Now he is part of the rotation, which includes doctors Estephan Bachir, Iryna Muzyka, Winnie Pao and Martha Yanci Torres.
Neurologists diagnose and treat disorders of the nervous system - the brain, spinal cord, muscles and nerves - and provide care for many associated conditions and symptoms, including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, pinched nerves, seizures, strokes, tremors and weakness.
Each of the neurologists coming to Fairmont see general neurology patients, but they also have their own sub-specialties. Reeves' specialty is epilepsy and seizures.
"We all see everything though," he said. "For example, I was down there two weeks ago and diagnosed a fellow with Parkinson's disease, so we were able to start him on treatment."
While the number of patients needing neurological services has greatly increased, Reeves does not believe it is necessarily that diseases or disorders are becoming more prevalent within the general population. In the past, many of these illnesses were mistakenly lumped together under the "palsy" label. Also contributing to the rising numbers of diagnoses, he said, is longer life expectancy.
Outside of the weekly rotation at the Fairmont clinic, the closest neurologists are in Mankato, followed by the Twin Cities and Rochester.
"We're glad to be coming back to take care of our patients in Fairmont," Reeves said. "It's a great community. It really is a pleasure to see patients in Fairmont. I used to see patients in Rochester, where I was maybe the fourth neurologist they'd seen in their life, so it's nice to see people closer to home, where the diseases are not as advanced."