Poll: Doctors frustrated in N.J.

By MARY JO LAYTON
STAFF WRITER
http://www.northjersey.com

Felt rushed at your last doctor’s visit?

New Jersey physicians spend less time with patients than they did five years ago, according to a Monmouth University/New Jersey Monthly Poll’s Physicians Survey released Tuesday.

In fact, a third of the doctors surveyed are so frustrated with practicing medicine in the Garden State that they’ve considered setting up shop elsewhere, the survey found.

The state’s 30,000 licensed physicians are hampered by declining reimbursements that are forcing them to shoulder much higher patient volumes — forcing many to contemplate early retirement, said Patrick Murray, who directed the poll.

“The doctors on the front lines, the primary-care physicians, are feeling it the most,” Murray said.

Malpractice premiums, among the highest in the nation, are another source of trouble for physicians, especially among obstetricians.

OB-GYNs practicing in New Jersey paid $87,081 to $171,199 last year for regular malpractice coverage — more than double the base rates four years ago, which ranged from $41,391 to $77,983, according to Medical Liability Monitor, which tracks rates nationally.

Dr. Ron White, a colorectal surgeon who practices in Englewood and Ridgewood, recently formed a new organization, NJ Physicians, to help doctors become better advocates and change some of the frustrations of practicing in New Jersey.

Since its inception last month, nearly 400 doctors have joined, White said.

The results of the survey of 2,100 physicians mirror what White hears from physician groups he meets with across the state, he said.

“There’s no question that lower reimbursements are forcing many doctors to see more patients to meet their overhead expenses,” White said. “That means less time with each patient,” he said.

“The message here is that New Jersey is a difficult place to practice medicine.”

Physicians’ responses depended on their area of specialty, the poll found. For instance, nearly two in three radiologists and half of gynecologists surveyed said they’ve eliminated a specialty or procedure from their practice because of rising malpractice premiums.

Seventy-one percent of OB-GYNs said they would “probably not” or “definitely not” recommend that a new physician start a practice in New Jersey.

“As a doctor, you can love medicine, but you can’t make the business side of medicine work in this state,” said George Ellis, a primary care physician in Wayne. “It’s disheartening.”

Podiatrists and psychiatrists viewed practicing in New Jersey more favorably. More than half of podiatrists surveyed and 77 percent of psychiatrists who participated in the poll said they would advise a colleague to practice in New Jersey.
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