San Joaquin Valley Has Greatest Shortage of Doctors in California
Residents in the San Joaquin Valley have difficulty accessing health services because of a shortage of primary care doctors and specialists, the Modesto Bee reports.
The valley has fewer physicians per capita than any other region in California, and the shortage is especially severe in rural areas.
Debra Riordan, legislative analyst for the Central Valley Health Policy Institute in Fresno, said several factors contribute to the shortage of doctors in the region, including:
- Lower Medicare reimbursement rates than in urban areas;
- Lack of academic resources for young doctors; and
- A desire to work in higher-income areas.
Mike Sullivan, CEO of Golden Valley Health Centers in Stanislaus and Merced counties, said the lack of U.S. medical school graduates choosing to work in the valley has prompted clinics and hospitals to seek alternatives, such as hiring foreign doctors and relying more on physician assistants and nurse practitioners (Moran, Modesto Bee, 11/19).
Health care in San Joaquin Valley also is affected by a shortage of specialty physicians, the Bee reports.
The number of specialists per capita in Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Merced counties is significantly lower than other California counties, including San Francisco and Santa Clara counties.
The problem affects all residents regardless of the type of insurance but is especially challenging for Medi-Cal beneficiaries, who have problems finding providers willing to accept Medi-Cal patients. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
California's Medicaid reimbursement rates are among the lowest in the U.S., while overhead costs are high, according to one specialty physician.
Sullivan said legislative proposals to overhaul California's health care system must be revised to address the shortage of specialists (Carlson, Modesto Bee, 11/19).