Family physicians group objects to cuts to primary-care physician training programs; cites doctor shortage, which is worse in Ky.

Facing an already-existing shortage of primary care in the country and state, the American Academy of Family Physicians sent a letter to U.S. Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, saying the committee’s 2014 funding allocations could damage the nation’s primary-care infrastructure by cutting primary-care physician training and research programs.

In the June 18 letter, AAFP Board Chair Glen Stream wrote, “We are concerned that the House-proposed allocation will be inadequate to make the necessary investment in vital primary care research and physician workforce training.” The proposed allocation would reduce funding for the only federal program that provides funds specifically to academic departments and programs that increase the number of primary-care health professionals, says an AAFP release.

There are not enough primary-care physicians being trained to meet the demand for services, and a recent study shows only a fourth of newly educated doctors actually go into this field. Even worse for Kentucky, which faces a critical doctor shortage amid Medicaid expansion, less than 5 percent go on to practice in rural areas, says a study by researchers at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. The study’s lead author wrote, “If residency programs do not ramp up the training of these physicians the shortage in primary care, especially in remote areas, will get worse.”

How can Kentucky meet the critical demand for new doctors when Congress has proposed to make additional cuts to training programs?  Kentucky needed to increase its number of doctors and other medical
professionals even before the state decided expand Medicaid, says a recent review by Deloitte Consulting.  The review found that the state needs 3,790 additional physicians,
including primary-care doctors and specialists, and the doctor shortage is worse among rural communities.

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