"The Ronan Report" provides insight about the activities at the Western Maryland Health System in Cumberland, Maryland, and about the changes taking place in healthcare today from a CEO's perspective.

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Decline in Primary Care Physicians Being Produced

News flash: a study has recently been released by the George Washington University's School of Public Health and the findings are that medical schools across the US are producing less primary care physicians, which ultimately hits rural areas especially hard.  Really?  Welcome to our world and, in the case of most rural hospitals and health systems, the challenges don't stop at primary care. 

GI docs are at a premium nationwide, with hundreds of openings and few physicians to fill them. We are located in a rural area but have to compete on a national level to attract and retain physicians.  From time to time, I get a letter from a patient or a patient's family member telling me that I need to recruit a gastroenterologist to the community due to our sporadic coverage during the week.  They are right; we do need to recruit a GI doc, preferably two, but it is very difficult.  This time last year, we had three GI docs in the community: one was terminated for cause; one is near retirement and will help out when he can; the third offers little help since he has moved his outpatient practice out of the hospital and does very little inpatient work.  We are once again offering anyone who identifies and assists us in successfully delivering a viable GI doc, $10,000.  Desperate times require desperate measures. 

Back to primary care, one thing that Maryland has done extremely well and leads the nation in their progressiveness is that Nurse Practitioners can work independently of a physician.  This has greatly helped in primary care recruitment and coverage.  Our own Nancy Adams, SVP and COO/CNE, who also serves as the President of the Maryland Board of Nursing, has had a leadership role in making this happen. So, the shortage of primary care docs is no surprise to us; it has been a challenge for years.  You just have to figure out how to work through this issue with creative approaches and a little help from our friends.

1 comment:

  1. Being a native of the Western Maryland community and a former WMHS employee, I am well aware of the shortage of primary care providers and other specialty physicians in the area. Currently I am studying to be a physician assistant and often wonder what would draw me back to the Western Maryland area to practice? Being away from the area, I have been immersed in a more active and healthy community that actually practices what PA students are taught to preach. This has lead me to question my original belief that I would eventually return to Western MD to practice.

    However, the Western Maryland community helped give me an innate drive to practice in a rural, medically underserved area. And ultimately, family is the strongest motivator to bring my professional abilities back to the area. With this being said, I believe that more support should be given to local students pursuing a medical career. In my opinion, the key to bringing successful providers to the area is to find local students that have strong roots to the area and support them in their educational journey. I know that my attempts in seeking support from WMHS have been unsuccessful leaving me no obligation to return to the area. I believe that giving support to these students will help bridge the gap in the the lack of primary care and specialty providers in the WMHS community.