Survey finds doctors are moving out of WNY

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – More doctors are retiring or moving out of Western New York than are setting up new practices here, according to a recent survey by a state hospital group.

The reason why comes down to economics. The cost of a medical degree requires student loans that many doctors can’t afford to pay back, and the pay is considerably lower for physicians in smaller regions like Western New York or smaller, compared to big cities, such as New York or Los Angeles.

“The challenge is getting people to come here in the first place, and take a look around,” says Dr. Anne Curtis, a recruiter and a Distinguished Professor at the University at Buffalo Medical School.

Dr. Curtis knows the challenges of getting students to come here to train, and doctors to come here to work. With doctors graduating from medical school with student debt in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, she says many have go into medical specialties or sub-specialties, rather than primary care.

“And then when you are looking particularly at primary care physicians, they don’t get paid as well as sub-specialists. So a lot of students look at that and say, can I really afford to do that?”

Dr. John Notaro, a primary care physician with the Buffalo Medical Group believes “team care” will replace the one-on-one interaction between doctor and patient and is fast becoming the wave of the future. Rather than having a primary care physician, a group of medical practitioners, including nurses and pharmacists, will work with patients.

“The quick response that they can get from a physician assistant may be faster than the doctor. So patients will come to reward the inputs that they get from every member of the team, including the primary care physician, who still has to be a part of it,” he explained.

Doctors also agree that as costs rise and demands from the Affordable Care Act increase, telemedicine or tele-health, which can connect doctor and patient over great distances, is becoming the care delivery vehicle of the future.

Dr. Ali El-Solh, the interim Chief of Staff at the VA Western New York Healthcare System, says tele-health is growing, especially in rural areas, “for lung diseases, ear, nose, and throat, for eye diseases, dermatology. So it is really expanding at a fast pace.”

But the medical community and civic leaders agree the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, with its innovations in medical science and research, is fast becoming a magnet for world-class medical practitioners and future doctors.

“It creates a modern tertiary care medical center to provide the best care for the people of Western New York that is attractive to students who are looking to decide where they are going to practice in the future,” Dr. Curtis contends.

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