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Family Physician Shortage

September 27, 2006, 10:02 PM by Kelli Grant

Family Physician Shortage
Over the next several years, thousands of family physicians will be needed across the country. Today, the American Academy of Family Physicians took its concerns to Capitol Hill. 

With more people living longer, the need for health care is increasing.
Nationwide, it's projected the demand for family physicians will increase 39 percent by the year 2020. And in South Dakota, it's predicted close to 70 family doctors will be needed in the next 15 years. It's a problem being recognized by the health care industry and lawmakers. 

“Primary care physicians are the backbone of our health care system, and there is a shortage and it's something we're working to address.” David Rossing, Senior Vice President for Sioux Valley Clinic says economics plays a role when medical students choose to specialize, rather than become a family physician. 

“Primary care physicians which we usually define as pediatrics internal medicine, family medicine, tend to be the least well compensated physicians. So our medical students come out of medical school with a very significant debt and as they choose their specialties they have to keep in mind the debt they've accumulated in training to become a physician,” says Rossing. 

As health care demand grows, recruiting efforts across the nation and in South Dakota are increasing. Even Congress is taking notice. 

Senator Tim Johnson says, “We do face a real problem. We need another 70 thousand primary care providers over the next several years to replace those who are going to be retiring. We continue to have difficulties especially in our more rural counties in South Dakota.” 

Johnson says there are things the government can do to make sure patients in South Dakota can get treatment now and in the future. 

He says, “I think that we need to strengthen our programs which waves part of the educational expenses and people will locate in under-served areas to provide that primary care. I think we could do more there.” 

Despite the shortage, Rossing says half of Sioux Valley's doctors are primary care physicians.

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