Ninety-five percent of hospital CEO's across the country believe there is a shortage of physicians in the United states. That's according to a survey conducted by a healthcare staffing organization.
The problem is especially pronounced in primary care, your family doctors and pediatricians.
Right now in Maine, there are more than a hundred vacancies of primary care doctors.
The state's only medical school, the University of New England, hopes they can help fill that gap. They have a goal of doubling enrollment within a few years.
"So the University of New England has had a profound impact not only on the number of physicians in this state but in primary and rural practice for Maine."
Currently 15% of all Primary Care Physicians in Maine are U.N.E. graduates.
But if the school wants to double enrollment they need to find more opportunities for them to train in state.
Some of them end up here, at Eastern Maine Medical Center, where they also accept two dozen primary care residents.
"Because of the residency program, I think not only EMMC but the other primary care practices have benefited from have that available. If you didn't have that available, I suspect this situation would be a little worse."
Because doctors usually end up working in the area where they complete their residency. But the folks here at EMMC say it still isn't easy to recruit primary care doctors. They currently have four open slots, Sometimes they stay vacant for a year. they say they need to get creative when recruiting, offering loan payback options, and better work schedules.
"We often do offer flexible schedules. A lot of people now are wanting to work part time or just flexible schedules."
"the solo primary care practice, that's disappearing at a very rapid rate."
Reverand Bob Carlson, is President of Penobscot Community Health Care. It's one of 19 federally qualified health centers across the state.
They get a federal grant, and provide comprehensive health care to anyone, including folks in rural areas that are under-served and those who can't pay for care.
He says under our current system, the focus and resources have been placed on specialty care, when a person is already sick. He says that needs to change.
"the only way we're going to lower healthcare costs in America is by focusing on primary care and prevention. If we don't do that we will fail."
He points to one patient example. A woman who had no insurance. For the two years before she became a patient of Penobscot Community Health Care she went to the emergency room five times and was hospitalized twice. The cost 67-thousand dollars. For the two years after becoming a patient at PCHC, she was seen by a doctor 10 times a year. The cost for that, less than $2000.
(take from So we were seeing her)"So $2000, $67000 do the math, it's that simple."
Many health professionals agree that a renewed focus on primary care can lead to big savings and a healthier population.
"they can lead more productive lives, not miss as much work, be happier and have a higher quality of life."
There has been bipartisan federal support for community health centers. During the Bush administration, funding for the centers was increased each year, and Obama administration is calling for an 11-billion dollar increase over the next five years.
If you are trying to find a primary care physician, here's a tip from EMMC. The folks at walk-in care, can refer you to an office that is now accepting patients, you can also find that information online at their website www.emmc.org.
Doctor Shortage in Maine