Specialist Shortage Affects Care in San Joaquin Valley
A shortage of medical specialist in the San Joaquin Valley is resulting in more complicated and costly care for patients who must wait longer for appointments, according to a survey of eight area clinics, the Fresno Bee reports.
The survey found that the area has the lowest proportion of doctors of any region in California with 173 per 100,000 residents, verses the statewide average of 302 doctors per 100,000 residents. There are 43 medical specialists per 100,000 residents in the Valley, compared with 87 specialists per 100,000 people statewide, according to the survey.
Clinic administrators said wait times for specialist appointments can range from weeks to months. Meanwhile, "[h]ealth problems become more complicated or more costly or there's a worse outcome, whether it be more severe reaction to disease or sometimes death," according to Deborah Riordan, a health policy analyst at the Central Valley Health Policy Institute at California State University and lead author of the study.
All but one of the clinics said it was difficult "most of the time" or "almost always" to obtain medical referrals for patients. The clinics reported having the most problems finding specialists to treat Medi-Cal beneficiaries. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
Patricia Quintana-Van Horne, chief medical officer at the Sequoia Community Health Centers in Fresno, said a proposed medical school at the University of California-Merced campus could bring more doctors to the area.
The survey included clinics in Fresno, Kern, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tulare counties (Anderson, Fresno Bee, 8/16).
The study is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report.