Number of primary care physicians in WNY drops 25 percent over 3 years

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The number of primary care physicians in Western New York has plummeted nearly 25 percent between 2010 and 2013.

Senator Charles Schumer wants the government to help fix the problem.

“The experts tell us you should have about 80 primary care physicians for every 100,000 people and the number in Western New York is in the mid-50s and it’s declining,” Schumer said.

Not only will you have to wait for an appointment, you won’t get much time with the doctor. Seventy-five percent of general practitioners report spending 20 minutes or less with each patient.

Why is their number declining? Many physicians – the baby boomers – are retiring, and many younger physicians are choosing specialties that pay more.

Senator Schumer says the solution is to train more.

He said, “Our bill would create 15,000 slots to train new physicians, half of which would go to general practitioners, so we would increase the pipeline.”

Similar bills were voted down in Congress last year, but the problem is so severe that he thinks it will pass this time. But what about nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants taking on some of the practice load?

Schumer said, “That can also help alleviate the shortage. For the initial visit, to the doctor, particularly in a group practice where there will always be a doctor on hand, to have nurses do the initial look is not a bad thing.”

Even if the bill passes and the funding is available right away, it will be years before the first batch of new primary care physicians is ready to begin practicing. The shortage will be with us for quite some time.

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