Physician Shortages Impacting Two Counties
San Mateo County's three-year-old Children's Health Initiative has helped increase the number of eligible children enrolled in public health insurance programs and expand insurance coverage to other children, but the supply of physicians and clinics has not increased to accommodate more patients, the Oakland Tribune reports. The shortage is particularly noteworthy in the county's southern region.
HHS has designated East Palo Alto and East Menlo Park a Health Professional Shortage Area. The designation can qualify clinics for additional funding.
Luisa Buada, CEO of the Ravenswood Family Health Center in East Palo Alto, said that there are about 9,100 patients per physician but that a full-time physician can handle only 1,200 to 1,500 patients per year.
Because of the shortage, children enrolled in public health insurance programs can wait three to four months for an appointment.
Local hospital officials blame several external trends for the shortage, including a low interest in primary care practice, the high cost of living, large medical groups further north and the appeal of working closer to San Francisco (Gordon, Oakland Tribune, 11/27).
San Luis Obispo County has a shortage of primary care physicians that "shows signs of worsening," the San Luis Obispo Tribune reports.
The county has 91 practicing primary care physicians, 50 fewer than the number needed to meet the population's needs, according to a September report by Navigant Consulting, a research firm hired by Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center.
Local doctors attribute the shortage to low Medicare reimbursement rates, high cost of living and an isolated location that offers few professional jobs for spouses (Arnquist, San Luis Obispo Tribune, 11/26).