For the fifth straight year, according to the Massachusetts Medical Society, primary care doctors in Massachusetts are in short supply. More than half of all family medicine practices in the state are now closed to new patients. And wait times for primary care physicians have increased. But the demand for these doctors is greater than ever now that more people are getting health insurance under national health reform.
So the outcry was huge when Harvard Medical School decided last year to de-fund its already small primary care program. Protests by medical students and health care providers forced the school to take a second look. As a result, a new $30 million dollar “Center for Primary Care” at Harvard will soon open.
Clearly, primary care is still in crisis: there are significant shortages of providers in the state and nation, and a dearth of medical students entering primary care because, among other reasons, the field is so vastly underpaid compared to many other medical specialties. But there is some hope. One of Sacha's guests, Andrew Morris-Singer, a primary care doctor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and founder of the group, Primary Care Progress said it was a "no-brainer" for him to enter the field.
First, he said, he did it for a profoundly persona reason: his mother almost passed away because she didn't have a primary care doctor. Beyond that, Dr. Morris-SInger added, there is growing passion and inspiration among some primary care docs who are re-engineering the field to be more satisfying both for patients and providers. "It was clear [primary care] was the place I could really carve out a fulfilling career and make a difference as well."
This program aired on November 24, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.