HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

A Shortage of Doctors"

Ezra Klein has an excellent post on a recent LA Times story entitled, "Needs of Patients Outpace Doctors."  The article reports,

Twelve states — including California, Texas and Florida — report some physician shortages now or expect them within a few years. Across the country, patients are experiencing or soon will face shortages in at least a dozen physician specialties, including cardiology, radiology, and several pediatric and surgical subspecialties.

The shortages are putting pressure on medical schools to boost enrollment, and on lawmakers to lift a cap on funding for physician training and to ease limits on immigration of foreign physicians, who already constitute 25% of the white-coated workforce.

But it may be too late to head off havoc for at least the next decade, experts say, given the long lead time to train surgeons and other specialists.

"People are waiting weeks for appointments; emergency departments have lines out the door," said Phil Miller, a spokesman for Merritt, Hawkins & Associates, a national physician search firm. "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."

North Hollywood resident Anneliese Ohler, who had a cancerous lesion removed from her face several years ago, had to wait two months recently to see a dermatologist after her hairdresser — and then her primary doctor — told her they saw worrisome spots on the top of her head.

"I was lucky it was not cancer," said Ohler, 83. "But what if it had been?"

Experts say her wait was a symptom of a wider problem: Demand for doctors is accelerating more rapidly than supply.

The article continues and provides some reasons for the shortage of physicians.  Should be interesting to see if anyone involved in public policy decides to address this issue.  Hopefully someone will take note.  [bm]

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