Physician Shortage Threatens Access to Care

Texas is one of 12 states with a "looming doctor shortage" so severe it "threatens to create a national healthcare crisis by further limiting access to physicians, jeopardizing quality and accelerating cost increases," the Los Angeles Times is reporting.

Read the LA Times story. (Note: There's no cost, but you will have to register on the Times site to read content there if you haven't already registered.)

The shortage grows out of a classic supply and demand mismatch. First, we have a growing demand for care from aging baby boomers and a booming population. Then, there's the long-constrained pipeline for new physicians and an aging physician population.

"People are waiting weeks for appointments; emergency departments have lines out the door," Phil Miller, a spokesman for Merritt, Hawkins & Associates, a national physician search firm, told the Times. "Doctors are working longer hours than they want. They are having a hard time taking vacations, a hard time getting their patients in to specialists."

Texas Medical Association's Healthy Vision 2010 calls for Texas to "build an adequate, homegrown supply of appropriately trained physicians."

At 218 physicians per 100,000 population, Texas already trails the national average of 281 physicians per 100,000 by 22 percent. The federal government designates 132 of Texas’ 254 counties – mostly in rural West Texas, along the border with Mexico, and in inner cities – as primary care Health Professional Shortage Areas. These counties are home to more than 5.4 million Texans. This diminished access to physician care will grow worse as Texans age and the population grows. While Texas State Demographer Steve Murdock predicts that the number of Texans will grow by almost 143 percent from 2000 to 2040, he likewise predicts that the number of physician contacts will increase by 170 percent.

Compared with the general population, Hispanic and African-American physicians are especially underrepresented. That discrepancy, too, will grow wider over the next quarter-century as Hispanics become the majority in Texas.

Each year, Texas’ eight medical schools graduate about 1,300 new physicians. TMA strongly supports the schools’ efforts to achieve more diverse student populations and to motivate and prepare students to practice in underserved areas of the state.

Read the entire Healthy Vision diagnosis and treatment recommendations on physician workforce issues.

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Published in: on June 6, 2006 at 2:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

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