Schumer pushes bill to address physician shortage

There is a shortage of doctors in New York state, especially primary care physicians.

During a conference call with Upstate media, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, said the shortage of doctors, and mainly the lack of primary care physicians, is one of the biggest health care problems in the state and the nation. He said the upstate doctor shortage continues to get worse every year as more doctors retire and hospitals have difficulty recruiting new physicians. He said 63 percent of hospitals report their primary care capabilities do not meet patients’ needs.

”In some parts of the state it is severely diminished already,” he said. ”The shortage is far and away acute with primary care physicians.”

Schumer said in Western New York, there were 74 primary care physicians per every 100,000 people in 2010. He said that number lowered to 57 in 2013. He said any number below 80 primary care physicians is considered too low.

”It is about doctors at community health centers, at clinics or wherever you go,” he said.

Schumer is now pushing legislation that would increase physician-training residency slots at state hospitals and address primary care doctor shortage by prioritizing primary care training. He said the legislation would increase the number of Medicare-supported physician training residency slots by 15,000 over the next few years, placing a special emphasis on giving slots to hospitals that serve rural areas that are experiencing physician shortages.

Schumer hopes to bring more physicians to Upstate New York for their training, as many choose to stay and practice in the same area upon completing their residency. The Resident Physician Shortage Act would also prioritize placing physicians in hospitals that train physicians in community health centers or outpatient departments, two of the more popular places to receive health care in Upstate New York.

”It is a perfect match for New York to get a larger proportion of slots and a larger proportion of doctors,” he said.

The annual survey done by the Hospital Association of New York State, or HANYS, has concluded that health care facilities in Western New York are facing a shortage of primary care physicians. This is the same conclusion the Jamestown Strategic Planning and Partnerships Commission’s Health Care Action Team reached at the end of 2013. That is when the group set its recruitment priority list, with primary care physicians its No. 1 preference.

The HANYS 2013 Physician Advocacy Survey, based on responses from health care facilities across the state excluding New York City, found that hospitals and health systems statewide need 1,026 additional doctors 26 percent of them primary care physicians. Since 2008, HANYS has issued an annual report based on a survey of its hospital and health system members.

In Western New York, the region gained 421 physicians, but lost 544 in 2013. The survey stated there is a need for 21 primary care physicians from the 13 hospitals reporting. In 2013, 46 percent of hospitals in the region indicated a difficulty in recruiting physicians. Also, 46 percent of hospitals stated they reduced or eliminated services because of the shortage. In Western New York, 85 percent of hospitals indicated their emergency departments not covered by certain specialties at times.