Number of Physicians Declines in El Dorado and Sacramento Counties
The number of practicing physicians in Sacramento and El Dorado counties dropped 13.4% between 1995 and 2000, according to a new study by the Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society, the Sacramento Business Journal reports. The report found that while 2,550 doctors were practicing in the area in 1995, that number fell to 2,249 in 2000. In 1995, there were 205 physicians per 100,000 residents, but that number fell to 165 physicians per 100,000 residents in 2000. The total number of specialists decreased from 132 per 100,000 residents in 1995 to 107 in 2000, while the number of primary care physicians dropped from 73 per 100,000 residents to 58. According to the report, both over- and under-supply of physicians affect issues such as patient access and satisfaction, physician compensation, insurance and HMO premiums, health care costs and quality of care. The report said, "If we cannot retain, recruit and replace [area physicians], our health care system will become second-class and the service we provide to our patients and community will suffer." Industry experts attributed the decrease to the "local dominance of managed care health plans" and the area's high cost of living.
Coinciding with the decrease in practicing physicians, the population of Sacramento and El Dorado counties rose 9.6% over the same time period, raising fears that the quality of health care will be "jeopard[ized]." Dr. Eugene Ogrod, physician recruitment director at Sutter Medical Group, said that for now, physicians are able to handle urgent needs. "But if you trend it out -- if we do not respond to this -- we will be in trouble," Ogrod said. He added that the challenge lies in enticing physicians to come to the area. Susan Perry, director of physician recruitment at UC-Davis Medical Center, agreed, saying, "The problem is ... when there are few doctors in town who offer a certain specialty, they can demand higher pay. Managed care pays a fixed fee per patient per month, so that means other doctors have to take a hit to pay the increase" (Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal, 2/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.