Doctor shortage getting worse, wait times increasing

Doctor shortage getting worse, wait times increasing (WKEF/WRGT)

Celina, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT)- Philip Masser, M.D. has been a primary care physician in Mercer County for for more than 30 years. Masser says the number of folks seeing doctors has increased over the past couple of years.

"I think there's much more awareness of health issues and even a push from employers, as well as, insurance companies and even our government programs, Medicare and Medicaid asking their clients to come in and get care," Masser said.

That's put a strain on him and his office.

"We, here in this office, have been looking for additional primary care physicians for several years and have not really found the gaps that I think are here," Masser said.

The Association of American Medical Colleges is projecting a shortage of between 40,000 and nearly 105,000 doctors by 2030. The AAMC projects there will be a shortage of between 7,300 and 43,100 primary care doctors in that same time.

There are several reasons why there is a doctor shortage. More Americans than ever have health insurance and a growing number of people in Medicare and Medicaid.

"A lot of folks don't know. I think my patients probably know that because I've attempted to educate them about that fact. At times, the patients might not be able to get an appointment when they need one and I recognize the frustration that goes with that," Masser said.

That's where medical students like Jeroson Williams come in.

"It kind of was something that's just always been on my heart. I love sciences. I love interacting with people and medicine is extremely fascinating and intellectually stimulating. Every day of my life, I get to make someone else's life better," Williams said.

Williams is finishing up a rotation with Dr. Masser in Celina as part of the Wright Rural Health Initiative.

Dr. Kate Conway is a family physician and the Director of Medical Education for family medicine at the Boonshoft School of Medicine at Wright State University.

Conway says the WRHI aims to bolster the healthcare workforce in rural areas, particularly in rural West Central Ohio.

The initiative gives medical students like Williams, from the Boonshoft School of Medicine at Wright State University, family nurse practitioner students from Wright State and doctor of pharmacy students from Cedarville University and Ohio Northern University opportunities to complete clinical experiences in the local area.

"There's no other rotation where they get partnered one-on-one with attending physicians out in the community with such intentional amount of hours and teaching that they're able to give in family medicine," Conway said.

For several weeks Williams has worked one on one with Dr. Masser.

"We have the chance to talk to each other during the day on numerous occasions. I think the other really neat thing about it is the students actually have the chance to spend time directly with those patients as that front line person as part of a team and in all honesty, my patients over the years have become sort of enamored to the process and look forward to when the next medical student is coming along. So, they've bought into this process as well," Masser said.

The two talk about the physician shortage.

"I see it a lot, just with the volume of patients we have here and him being the only physician here. There's definitely a need in this practice and in communities like this not only in Ohio but all over the United States," Williams said.

Dr. Conway hopes the experience Williams and other students get will guide them into primary care.

"The reason students choose a specialty is because of the experiences they have in medical school. Those clinical rotations are pivotal to having them make a good decision and for their career," Conway said.

Dr. Masser says it's not getting any better any time soon.

"I truly wish I had a crystal ball but I don't and I think in the short-term, I think we're going to see it get worse. If I had to predict, I think we're going to see even more shortages. In part, because of the demands of healthcare today," Masser said.

If you've seen a physician assistant or nurse practitioner instead of a doctor this is probably the reason why.

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