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October 2, 2012

Study: Mass. doctor shortage a problem at community hospitals


The survey also measured doctor satisfaction, and found that the percentage of satisfied doctors and dissatisfied doctors was equal at 40 percent each. In 2010, the number of satisfied doctors edged the number dissatisfied but dating back to 2002, dissatisfaction has reigned among Massachusetts physicians. In 2003, 60 percent of doctors were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.

“This year’s study has mixed results,” said Massachusetts Medical Society President Dr. Richard Aghababian, M.D., in a statement. “We still have shortages of physicians in key specialties, especially primary care, and, despite some positive trends, physician recruitment is problematic, particularly for community hospitals….. Yet we also see some positives, with more physicians willing to participate in accountable care organizations and global payments, and that bodes well as health reform continues to evolve.”

Community hospitals have been significantly more affected by the shortage than teaching hospitals. Teaching hospitals reported a 7.3 percent rate of “significant difficulty to fill vacancies” compared to 94.1 percent at community hospitals and a rate of 21.7 from 8,052 physicians surveyed.

Executives at the community hospitals listed lower salaries, high cost of living and lack of interest as reasons contributing to the difficulty in recruiting. Asked which specialty was most difficult to fill, the community hospital executives listed family practice, neurosurgery and internal medicine as the top three.

Western Massachusetts is more affected by the shortage than other areas of the state. The western region reported a 47.8 percent rate of “significant difficulty to fill vacancies” compared to 17.4 percent in Boston and 29.3 percent in Worcester.

A growing and aging population will live longer than previous generations and will develop more chronic diseases, contributing to the demand, according to the study.

Medical schools will aim to keep up with the increasing demand, the study says. In 2005, the Association of American Medical Colleges recommended medical schools increase enrollment by 30 percent by 2015. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the number of physicians nationwide will climb by 168,300, or 24 percent, from 2010 to 2020. The AAMC predicts a nationwide shortage of 124,000 full-time physicians by 2025.

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