Ripples of Primary Physician Shortage Felt By Oscoda County Clinics

“I’m not sure that this problem will ever be recovered.”

The problem… A shortage of primary care physicians in Michigan.

A new report shows it’s becoming a serious issue.

The report by the citizens research council says 75-percent of Michigan’s counties have a doctor shortage in at least one field of medicine.

The report cited Oscoda County as one of four in the state with the fewest physicians.

It only has two clinics, one in Mio and another in Fairview.

New at six — 9&10’s Cody Boyer and photojournalist Jeff Blakeman stopped by the Fairview Clinic to learn more about the problem.

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The number of new physicians is decreasing.

At the same time, more physicians plan to leave the field of medicine in one way or another.

“I believe this is a shift in how health care is going to go with the emphasis on primary care,” says Cheryl Henry

Cheryl Henry is the nurse practitioner at the Fairview Clinic.

She is also the sole health care provider for the clinic, one of only a handful in the entire county.

“When I first started here, we did have a physician. He moved,” Henry says. “Another physician came in and worked just part-time and then he retired.”

According to the Citizens Research Council, Oscoda County lacks doctors in all primary health care fields.

Cheryl says that’s probably not going to change.

“Michigan does have a shortage, as does the rest of the nation, but the shortage is not likely to be overcome because the residency programs for those medical students coming out of their schooling, there aren’t as many openings,” Henry says.

She says a population shift in her area has also contributed to the local shortage.

“Just in the 10 years that i’ve been practicing here, there has been a population shift,” Henry says. “It’s an aging population here, so a number have expired or moved on to different parts of the state to live with children after one of the spouses dies.”

The Fairview Clinic will keep helping those who need help … And find treatment for more serious medical issues.

But cheryl believes the worst is yet to come.

“From a physician shortage standpoint, I think it’s just a sign of the times,” Henry says. “This is how the industry is going to shift. There will always be some in the general practice, but I don’t think there will ever be as many as there were.”

More than 50-percent of our viewing area also has major shortages in other areas of primary care, but not in all areas.

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