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Senator Says U.S. Could Have Physician Shortage of More Than 100,000 by 2030; Southern Tier Has Lowest Rate of Pediatricians and OB/GYNs Per Person in New York, Physician Shortage Crisis is Only Getting Worse and Southern Tier Communities Will Pay the Price for Generations to Come

Congress Should Be Doing Everything Possible To Address Severe Doctor Shortages That Is Already Putting Patient Care At Risk, Must Act Now To Reserve Course Before It’s Too Late; Urges Senate to Pass Doctor Shortage Bill

Schumer: Congress Must Help Alleviate Chemung County’s Doctor Shortage

Joined by local doctors, and with what is known as “Match Day” around the corner,  where medical students across the country learn where they will go to for the next stage of their training, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today launched a major effort to urge his colleagues in both the Senate and House of Representatives to immediately pass the Physician Shortage Act of 2017.  Schumer explained that this critical legislation will add 15,000 more Medicare-supported residency training slots for doctors, helping to ensure teaching hospitals can train enough physicians to meet the growing demands for physicians as our nation is already in the midst of a doctor shortage. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the U.S. is expected to face a shortage of up to 43,100 primary care physicians and 61,800 specialty physicians by 2030.

"While we have tremendous doctors providing amazing care in Elmira and across the Southern Tier it is also apparent that we no longer have as many physicians as we need," said Senator Schumer. "This goes from primary care physicians that are often the first phone call we make when we are feeling sick to OB/GYNs that protect and advance women’s health to specialty physicians. Unfortunately, here in the Southern Tier, our hospitals and community health centers are struggling to provide enough doctors to meet the needs of our changing population. With residency match day on the horizon, this time of year is a perfect reminder that we must give these young medical professionals every incentive to work in rural communities in Upstate New York and beyond, and give teaching hospitals the resources to train them.”

Schumer's push comes amidst an increasing doctor shortage in the Southern Tier.  A recent survey of hospitals by the Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS) found that: 71 percent of respondents said their current primary care capacity is insufficient to meet current patient needs, with 77 percent reporting a deficit to meet future needs. 81 percent of respondents indicated that primary care physicians are very difficult to recruit, while 84 percent indicated that recruitment of primary care physicians is one of their critical strategies for improving access to care. 72 percent of respondents indicated that their ability to recruit primary care physicians remained the same or worsened, and 86 percent of upstate hospitals report that there are times when they have to transfer patients from the emergency department because the care they need is not available.

Schumer continued, "That is why I am proud to co-sponsor The Resident Physician Shortage Act, and why throughout my Senate career I have worked to identify solutions to the alarming problem of a shortage of doctors. This bill tackles the doctor shortage head-on by creating 15,000 new residency training slots nationwide and prioritizing those slots for communities that need them most.

Additionally, a recent major report for the Center for Health Workforce Studies (CHWSNY) found that providers are unevenly distributed across New York, with the Southern Tier often having far fewer physicians than it needs. The report found the Southern Tier region, including Steuben, Chemung, and Schuyler counties have the lowest rate of obstetrics/gynecology physicians in the state, with only 1 OB/GYN for every 1,923 people.  The Southern Tier also has the lowest rate of primary care pediatric physicians in the state, with only one pediatrician for every 1,612 people and the rate of psychiatrists in the Southern Tier is almost of a third of that in New York City. Additionally, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute 2017 New York County Rankings stated that Chemung ranks 57th for health outcomes and 54th in health factors among New York’s counties.

The "Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act" (S. 1301), introduced by Senator Bill Nelson, tackles this problem head-on by boosting the number of residency slots that teaching hospitals can offer to new physicians. Currently, Medicare provides funding for hospitals to host a specific number of residents at a given time through Graduate Medical Education (GME) funding. This legislation would allow Medicare to fund an additional 3,000 slots each year for five years. Schumer added that since 2002, medical school enrollment has increased nearly 30 percent but the 1997 cap on Medicare support for graduate medical education GME restricted the ability of teaching hospitals to properly train this potential influx of new doctors.

Medicare, through its GME payment system, compensates teaching hospitals for Medicare’s share of the costs directly related to training residents. Medicare does not make payments related to the education of medical students. Schumer said the cost to hospitals of training a resident averages $100,000 or more a year, of which Medicare covers roughly 40 percent of that total.

The bill would enhance America's health care infrastructure by expanding the number of Medicare-supported physician residency training positions. Half of these new residency slots would be used for resident training in a shortage specialty residency program. Priority is given to hospitals in states with new medical schools, hospitals for which they hospital has hit its resident limit, hospitals that work with the Veterans Administration (VA), hospitals that emphasize training in community-based settings or in hospital outpatient departments; Hospitals not located in a rural area and operate an approved “rural track” program.

Additionally, hospitals in states that emphasize training in community-based settings, or hospital outpatient departments would also receive preference when applying for additional slots to host physician residents. Schumer noted that given New York's physician shortage and its focus on community health center-based care, the state could be well positioned to receive a number of the slots the legislation would create.

Schumer was joined by Dr. Robert Lambert, President, and CEO Arnot Health, Dr, Richard Terry Director of Graduate Medical Education at Arnot Health, Jonathan Lawrence COO Arnot Health, and Richard Cleland Administrator of Ira Davenport Memorial.

“I applaud Senator Schumer’s tireless efforts to champion the Resident Physician Shortage Act which will create 15,000 new residency training slots nationwide. Chemung County ranks 57 of out 62 counties for health outcomes and has been designated as a region that has a severe physician shortage. If passed, this bill would have a significant impact in addressing this crisis by creating more residency positions in the Southern Tier, “ says Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli.

“It is clear we do not have enough physicians to meet the healthcare needs of our country.  And nowhere is this truer than in rural areas, like the Southern Tier and the Finger Lakes regions. The limitation on the number of new physicians is no longer the number of medical school graduates, but the limited number of residency positions open to those graduates,” said Dr. Robert Lambert, President and CEO of Arnot Health.

Arnot presently has 100 residents and would like to add more. Schumer said that doctors often choose to practice long-term in the community in which they complete their residency. Arnot’s GME program has retained 40 percent of its resident's graduates to work in the Arnot Health System. 65 percent of Arnot Health residents have remained in the region to practice, with more in the pipeline to practice in the area after graduation. Schumer said the passage of this vital bill would increase Medicare GME funding for hospitals like Arnot across the state, allowing Arnot to add resident programs at its other hospitals including the nearby Ira Davenport Memorial Hospital.