Mass. physician shortage worsens

Boston Business Journal – by Mark Hollmer
http://sanantonio.bizjournals.co

Twelve physician specialties are in seriously short supply in Massachusetts, according to a new industry study, with three new categories added to the list just this year.

Newly insured patients, combined with an exodus of medical residents, are contributing to the problem.

For the first time, oncology, neurology and dermatology specialties all reported shortages, according to the annual Massachusetts Medical Society workforce study. That’s in addition to nine other specialities dealing with ongoing shortfalls in talent: emergency medicine, general surgery, neurosurgery, orthopedics, psychiatry, urology, vascular surgery, internal medicine and family medicine.

Such news is ominous as the state seeks to expand coverage to nearly every resident under its health reform law. More than 440,000 Massachusetts residents became newly insured over the past year and are looking for primary care doctors.

The study found that 2008 was the third consecutive year that both internal medicine and family medicine specialities were in short supply.

Among the results:

• Recruitment times to hire more physicians averaged more than a year for 11 of 18 major specialties. For dermatologists, the average recruit time took 26 months. Neurologist positions were filled after an average of two years.

• Wait times for new patients continued to be a problem. For internal medicine, the average wait time reached 50 days, two days shorter than in 2007. For family medicine, new patients faced an average wait time of 36 days.

• About 52 percent of medical residents leave Massachusetts when they’re done to further their careers, a factor in the increasing shortages.

• The state employs a large number of international medical graduates to fill needs. Their number is now at 23 percent of new hires at all teaching hospitals, up from 19 percent in 2006.

•Just under 50 percent of physicians said they aren’t happy with the practice environment in Massachusetts.

• Physician recruitment remains particularly hard in Boston, Worcester, Springfield, Bedford/Fall River/Barnstable County and Pittsfield.

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