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Doctor shortage in Massachusetts, some wait 53 days to see doctor

Posted Oct 29 2010 10:13am

Friday, October 29th, 2010

By Jennifer Mitchell
Editor, Action for Better Healthcare

If you live in Massachusetts and need to see a doctor, prepare to wait. A recent report from the Massachusetts Medical Society finds that not only are about half of primary care physician offices NOT accepting new patients, but wait times to see a family doctor or internist vary from 29 to 53 days!

The report attributes part of the problem to pressure from the state's 2006 law mandating near-universal insurance coverage. The trouble appears to be that there are not enough doctors to meet the demand. Doctor shortages are not just felt within primary care. The report also notes that there are doctor shortages in dermatology, general surgery, emergency medicine and several other areas.

Alice Coombs, M.D., president of the Massachusetts Medical Society,  says the report clearly shows how fragile access to care for patients is across the entire Commonwealth.  She is quoted on the medical society's website saying:

“The state’s universal healthcare plan has improved access to care,” said Dr. Coombs, “but universal coverage can only be sustained with a strong physician workforce. As we continue to look at reforming the healthcare system, we must do so carefully and deliberately in all aspects, and that includes the next steps for cost control, particularly with respect to establishing a fair system of payment reform.”

“A strong physician workforce is critical to delivering top quality and cost effective care. If physicians think that the viability of their practice is threatened or unsustainable under a new payment system, Massachusetts may encounter further problems with recruitment and retention. And that, certainly, will affect patient care.”

This is the fifth year in a row that a physician shortage has been reported in Massachusetts. Unfortunately there is no quick fix in sight.

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