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Some doctors groups say primary care physicians are dwindling and doctors are being enticed into other fields. Why is this happening?
I was recently given a challenge from the American College of Physicians Utah Chapter: Try to arrange an appointment with your primary care doctor for today. They said, chances are, you won't be able to.
Internal Medicine Resident Tyler Williams said, "In my class, there are about 25 residents in each class. The vast majority of residents prefer to go into sub-specialty training."Williams is one of only two resident he knows of in his class going into family care, while most of his classmates are going into some other field. He says he's doing it because it's what he loves to do, because he's sure not doing it for the money.
"There's no financial incentive to go into primary care," he said.
Williams says he'd make around $100,000 to $130,000 a year in his own practice, while other specialists could make up to $200,000. He says money isn't the only reason doctors aren't going into primary care.
"They say it's too difficult and why not go into sub-specialty training when the lifestyle's easier as a sub-specialist," he said.
University of Utah Department of Family and Preventive Medicine Associate Chair A. Peter Catinella said, "The data suggests that overall there's a high likelihood of a shortage of physicians in many specialties. Probably, the shortage among primary care doctors is increasing at a faster rate than some of the other ones."
Catinella says the number of medical school graduates hasn't increased much, but the overall population has. You can't fault a young doctor for going for more money. They do have a lot of student loan debt.
"It's now estimated to be between $140,000 and $150,000 by the time a student graduates medical school," he said.
Catinella says there may not be much they can do to entice doctors into primary care, with the exception of some large policy changes from very high up.
"Some (policies) might be loan forgiveness programs, decreasing the student debt that they would have or increasing compensation to primary care physicians," he said.
Some doctors say emergency rooms get flooded with patients when people can't see their primary care physician.