PHYSICIAN SHORTAGE LOOMS, RISKING A CRISIS, AS DEMAND FOR CARE EXPLODES
June 9, 2006
Twelve states, including California, Texas and Florida, report some physician shortages now or expect them within a few years, says the Los Angeles Times. 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 percent of the white-coated workforce.
- The number of medical school graduates has remained virtually flat for a quarter century because schools limited enrollment out of concern that the nation was producing too many doctors.
- Over the next 15 years, aging baby boomers will push urologists, geriatricians and other physicians into overdrive; yet, a third of the nation's 750,000 active, post-residency physicians are older than 55 and likely to retire just as the boomer generation moves into its greatest medical need.
- At the same time, younger male physicians and women -- who constitute half of all medical students -- are less inclined to work the slavish hours that have long typified the profession; as a result, the next generation of physicians is expected to be 10 percent less productive, according to Edward Salsberg, director of the Association of American Medical Colleges' Center for Workforce Studies.
If nothing changes, experts say, the prognosis for the quality of healthcare if poor. Momentum for change is building. This month, the executive council of the Association of American Medical Colleges will consider calling for a 30 percent boost in enrollment, double the increase it called for last year.
Source: Lisa Girion, "Physician Shortage Looms, Risking a Crisis, as Demand for Care Explodes," Los Angeles Times, June 4, 2006.
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