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Fed Funding Aids Primary Care Need

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, November 18, 2010

In case anyone needs a reminder, the Association of Medical Colleges estimates the nation will need 124,000 physicians by 2025, with primary care physicians representing 37% of the shortage. In addition, there is the upcoming potential shock of the wave of 32 million now uninsured people entering the system under the government's healthcare reform, beginning in 2015.  

Connecticut—and Danbury, in particular—faces physician shortages with the potential retirement of primary care physicians, Ahmadi says. "My colleagues in New Haven, they say they aren't taking new patients; maybe there will be a year before you get an appointment if you are a patient. I could only imagine by 2015 and 2018."

So, he says, the idea is to try as much as possible to get more primary care docs into the system. He has been a primary care doctor and has loved the work. But he acknowledges the litany of reasons why especially younger physicians don't go into the field. For many younger physicians, "they like to be comfortable. Primary care is complicated and not very well controlled. At a hospital, there is predictability, safety, and security to a young doctor in training," he says.

He says Danbury Hospital will begin an innovative, multidisciplinary curriculum that focuses attention on primary care work, including the patient-centered medical home, which is expected to become a cornerstone for patient care in evolving healthcare reform

Ahmadi says the residency program is an innovative approach, and he hopes the residents will continue to use such approaches when they go on to practice in the community.  "We need innovative ways to accomplish what we want, I'm telling you that."

The Obama Administration has announced $168 million for training more than 500 new primary care physicians by 2015. In addition, the White House says it is supporting training for new physician assistants, working to improve primary care work in underserved areas, initiating tax benefits and better access for primary care through Medicare and Medicaid. "Primary are is the backbone of preventative healthcare," the White House says bluntly.

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