In a press conference Monday, the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians addressed the shortage in primary care physicians. They say the shortage could impact health, increase healthcare costs and reduce access to care.
A family physician in Midland, Jennifer Aloff says if the shortage is not addressed the situation will get worse.
“We know that currently there are three-million residents who don’t have access to primary care because they are in medically underserved areas,” Aloff states.
In a press release, the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians says there will be a shortage of 860 primary care physicians in Michigan by 2030. The Medical Director of Novello Physician Organization, Melanie Manary says there are shortages for multiple reasons. She says one of the reasons is because many physicians have retired. She blames COVID for the reason many physicians have decided to retire early. Although she points out it’s not just the lack of physicians that’s the problem.
“It’s not just physicians, it’s nurses, it’s receptionists and people who want to work in this business,” Manary says.
Manary explains that lately a lot of practices have had to cut their hours due to the lack of nurses.
“Primary care offices can’t run efficiently without the staffing, the medical assistance,” Manary claims.
Doctor’s offices in northern Michigan are feeling the effects of the physician shortage. On Monday Spectrum Health Tustin Family Practice in Osceola County announced they would close permanently due to the lack of physicians. With a lack of physicians and nurses, along with doctor’s offices closing, families are struggling to find a doctor.
“It’s more difficult for a family who is trying to accommodate the parents work schedule to get in on a basis that works for them,” Manary says. “We’ve tried to use more alternative methods like doing telehealth, but you can’t get immunizations if you’re doing telehealth,” Manary continues.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, there are nearly 270 health professional shortage areas in Michigan. These are the areas where there aren’t any or too few primary care physicians, but Dr. Manary hopes that might change soon.
“We’re like every other business though. We’re undermanned, underwomaned, we’re looking for more staff. The pandemic isn’t over, but at least it’s quieting down. Maybe we’ll get some back,” Manary says.