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Media Roundup: Primary Care Physician Shortage Looms in California

September 18, 2017

In August, Healthforce Center released the second in a series of three reports on primary care in California, which projected a statewide primary care clinician shortfall in the next 15 years, with the most severe shortages in the Central Valley, Central Coast and Southern Border areas.

The report was picked up by more than a dozen news outlets including KCBS, The Mercury News , Valley Public Radio, San Francisco Business Times, California Healthline, Hoy Los Angeles, KPCC, Los Angeles Daily News, Orange County Register, U.S. News & World Report and more.

Below are some highlights from the coverage:

The Mercury News: “We need to ask our (state) leaders: What can we do now to avoid a crisis in the future?’’ said Janet Coffman, associate professor of health policy at USCF, and one of the study’s authors.

KCBS: Spetz said part of the problem is our medical school capacity. “The forecast that we put together suggests that by 2030, our shortage of primary care physicians is going to be somewhere about 12 to 17 percent,” said Joanne Spetz, associate director for research at the UCSF Healthforce Center and the study’s co-author. “California has a lot of excellent medical schools, some of the best in the country,” Spetz told KCBS. “But given the size of our population, it isn’t enough to produce the number people that we need.” It’s not just the schools, it’s also the number of available residency slots. “A lot of people finished medical school and then go somewhere else for their residency training,” Spetz said. “So we need to have enough space for our residency training, that when people finish medical school, this is an attractive place to do the rest of their training and their career.” On the other hand, nurse practitioners and physician assistants are more likely to be educated here and then stay. A growing number of patients are seeing a nurse or physician’s assistant instead of the doctor, and data show the quality of their care is about as good as a physician’s.

Valley Public Radio: Physician scarcity is a growing national problem. By some estimates, the entire country could be short of at least 40,000 doctors by the year 2030. But when it comes specifically to primary care, California already trails national recommendations for doctors per capita. And, according to Janet Coffman, a professor of health policy at the Healthforce Center at UC San Francisco, the problem is particularly pronounced here. “The San Joaquin Valley has one of the lowest ratios of primary care physicians and of specialist physicians per population for any region in the state,” Coffman says.

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