San Diego Union-Tribune Examines Concerns Raised over Potential Shortage of Area Physicians
The San Diego Union-Tribune last Thursday reported on concerns raised by the San Diego County Medical Society about a potential physician shortage in the San Diego area. According to the medical society, many physicians have left the San Diego area over low reimbursement rates, older doctors in the area treat fewer patients and fewer medical students decide to practice in the area. The medical society this week plans to distribute 5,000 surveys that ask San Diego area physicians whether they plan to leave the area, retire or reduce their caseloads and whether area physician groups have problems recruiting doctors. The survey also will determine the amount of time that area physicians spend with patients compared with administrative responsibilities and the amount of time that patients must wait for appointments. Officials at the medical society said that the San Diego area has lower Medicare reimbursement rates for specialists than other areas in the state and that area HMOs have a "strong foothold" compared with other areas statewide, which has prompted many physicians to leave the area. In addition, the practice of "emergency call," in which many area hospitals require physicians to be available for 24-hour periods, has become a "contentious issue" for many doctors, Dr. David Priver, a San Diego obstetrician-gynecologist, said. However, Walter Zelman, president of the California Association of Health Plans, disputed the "claim that doctors are leaving in droves." He said, "The number of doctors in the state has stayed level, there's not a decline in medical school applicants and the number of practicing physicians has actually gone up" (Clark, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/1).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.