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Report: CA Needs to Boost Primary Care Physician Workforce

By Doug Desjardins  
   February 16, 2016

The current primary care workforce is barely adequate and the state will need an additional 8,243 primary care physicians by 2030, says the California Primary Care Association.

This article originally appeared in California Healthfax.

A new report from the California Primary Care Association (CPCA) projects the state will need to boost its primary care physician workforce by 32% over the next 15 years to meet demands of a growing population.

The Horizon 2030 study suggests the current primary care workforce is barely adequate and that the state will need an additional 8,243 primary care physicians by 2030 to meet growing demand. "The primary care physician workforce in many parts of the state is not adequate and the situation is only getting worse," said CPCA President and CEO Carmela Castellano-Garcia.

The study makes several recommendations to help bolster the supply of primary care physicians. One is that California do more to create its own supply of primary care physicians. The Horizon 2030 study notes that "California ranks 43rd in the nation at 17.8 medical students per 100,000" due to a limited medical school capacity, which leads 63% of all California medical school students to attend medical school out of state.

"Given that California ranks first in the nation with 62.4% of its in-state medical school graduates subsequently practicing in the state, an expansion in California medical school capacity could result in a much needed increase in the physician supply," the study states. The 2013 opening of UC Riverside School of Medicine was the first new medical school to open in the state in 45 years.

The CPCA study also recommends that the state expand loan repayment programs that help new physicians pay back student loans, expand new models of care that maximize the use of physician practice staff, and increase the number of residency programs that place residents in underserved facilities like community health centers.

The shortage of residency programs was touched in a 2015 report from the California Academy of Family Physicians (CAFP), which said the state is home to 51 residency programs that train approximately 140 new residents each year. "That just is not enough, as one-third of physicians in the state will retire by 2030, our population is growing, and millions more Californians have gained coverage under healthcare reform," the report concluded.

A report from the California HealthCare Foundation found that California has 63 primary care physicians per 100,000 residents, a total that's within the parameters of 60 to 80 physicians per 100,000 residents recommended by the Council on Graduate Medical Education. But the study also found that physicians are distributed unevenly and that 42 of the state's 58 counties have fewer than 60 primary care physicians per 100,000 residents.

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