Palo Alto Medical Foundation to Stop Accepting New Patients
Citing a shortage of doctors, a "troubling backlog" of current patients and an "unexpected influx" of new patients, the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, one of the Bay area's "leading" medical groups, announced yesterday that for an "indefinite period," it will stop accepting new patients who need "basic care," the San Jose Mercury News reports. The center will continue to serve existing patients and will accept new patients for specialty services, such as obstetrics/gynecology or oncology, and "anyone who needs same-day urgent care." Because the center has "struggled" to recruit new physicians -- due in part to the area's high housing prices -- the group's 22 pediatricians, 37 internists and 40 family doctors have served 202,000 patients in the last two years, an average of 1,500 patients per doctor. By comparison, the average number of patients served by all of the center's physicians, including specialists, is 700 patients per doctor. According to the Mercury News, the patient backlog has typically resulted in three-month waits for "routine physical[s]." The center has recently been flooded with new patients, many from Stanford Medical Center's recent decision to drop "certain forms of insurance" offered by six health plans due to a contract dispute, the Mercury News reports. The Mercury News reports that the Palo Alto Medical Foundation decision "won't leave many options" for many Bay area residents seeking care, as several other "[l]arge medical groups in San Mateo County and elsewhere" have closed. Peter Warren, spokesperson for the California Medical Association, called the Palo Alto situation "just another symptom of the problem of physician supply in California" (Feder, San Jose Mercury News, 7/31).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.