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Michigan's physician shortage is a concern
LANSING — Michigan is facing a loss of physicians as cuts in Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement continue.
Several thousand physicians have left the state after their residency programs or during their practices, according to Gregory Forzley, board chair of the Michigan State Medical Society. The situation could be worse since an 8 percent cut in Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement rates was approved Sept. 30, 2009.
“The top three specialties with the biggest shortage are cardiologist, family doctor and general surgeon,” said Jessy Sielski, manager of communications and media relations for MSMS.
The total number of physicians licensed in Michigan is 42,960 and about 27 percent of them work outside Michigan, according to the state’s 2009 physician licensure report.
“Based on surveys and the result of tracking, if physicians-in-training go out of state for a residency program, they tend not to come back,” said Forzley, a Grand Rapids family physician.
As a result, doctors who stay in Michigan are taking as many patients as possible. About 61 percent of physicians providing patient care in Michigan reported their practice was full or nearly full in 2009, compared to 42 percent in 2005. That means some patients will find it harder to find sufficient care.
MSMS represents 14,000 medical doctors. It is also cooperating with universities and medical programs to identify physicians to fill available spots.
Many universities are opening new medical schools or expanding, including Central Michigan, University of Michigan, Michigan State colleges of Human Medicine and Osteopathic Medicine, Oakland and Western Michigan, Sielski said.
“Physicians may get better financial rewards if they partner with universities and they may not know about it. This is what we want to make them aware of,” Forzley said.
“We’ve talked about how to encourage and educate medical students on why Michigan is a good place and give them a better business sense and a better understanding about what to look for in practice,” he said. “There is a need for good medical programs and enough residency positions, as well as financial assistance to help cover students’ large loans.”
He said one challenge is that even though the number of medical students has increased, there aren’t enough creative programs to forgive their debts and encourage them to stay here.