WNY Faces Physician Shortage

A statewide survey supports the same conclusion local officials have reached – it is challenging to recruit primary care physicians.

The annual survey done by the Hospital Association of New York State, or HANYS, has concluded that health care facilities in Western New York are facing a shortage of primary care physicians. This is the same conclusion the Jamestown Strategic Planning and Partnerships Commission’s Health Care Action Team reached at the end of 2013. That is when the group set its recruitment priority list, with primary care physicians named the No. 1 preference.

The HANYS 2013 Physician Advocacy Survey is based on responses from health care facilities across the state excluding New York City.

The survey found that hospitals and health systems statewide need 1,026 additional doctors – 26 percent of them primary care physicians.

Since 2008, HANYS has issued an annual report based on a survey of its hospital and health system members.

In Western New York, the region gained 421 physicians, but lost 544 in 2013. The survey stated there is a need for 21 primary care physicians from the 13 hospitals reporting. In 2013, 46 percent of hospitals in the region indicated a difficulty in recruiting physicians. Also, 46 percent of hospitals stated they reduced or eliminated services because of the shortage. In Western New York, 85 percent of hospitals indicated their emergency departments were not covered by certain specialties at times.

The HANYS survey recommends offering incentives to physicians who agree to pursue less lucrative specialties, such as primary care, or to practice in underserved areas of the state. This need for incentives to attract physicians is what the Health Care Action Team has been working on locally.

On Jan. 29, the Health Care Action Team hosted a meeting with representatives from several community foundations to raise money for a recruitment fund. The group is working toward raising money to offer more of a recruitment incentive to physicians who come work in the area. Dr. Lillian Vitanza Ney, action team chairwoman, said in February the previous incentive was $10,000, but now the group wants to offer $20,000 to $50,000 based on the physician’s area of expertise.

Ney said about 30 people attended the group meeting, with representatives from the Chautauqua Regional Community Foundation; Gebbie Foundation; Hultquist Foundation; Jessie Smith Darrah Fund; Lenna Foundation; Judith J. Anderson Family Foundation; and Ralph C. Sheldon Foundation. Along with Ney, several people spoke about the need for the recruitment grant, which included Dr. Marlene Garone, WCA Hospital medical director; Dr. John LaMancuso, Jamestown Area Medical Associates; Kevin Saff, Jamestown Area Medical Associates executive director; Dan Tota, WCA Hospital physician services director; and Katie Geise, Chautauqua Workforce Investment Board executive director.

Ney said the goal is $250,000 for the recruitment fund that will go to help area health organizations recruit several physicians. Last month, the Health Care Action Team received its first physician recruitment incentive grant. The Chautauqua Region Community Foundation awarded the group a grant toward recruiting a physician.

”Wonderful news we have just heard from the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, they have awarded us a grant toward our physician recruitment incentive grant program,” Ney wrote in an email to action team members in March. ”We are very grateful for this.”

Ney said the grant from the Community Foundation will cover the incentive to recruit one physician.

”(The Health Care Action Team) will keep in close touch with (the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation) to advise them of applications for the grant,” Ney stated. ”(The Health Care Action Team) is thrilled to receive this award from (Chautauqua Region Community Foundation) as our first grant gift. The Chautauqua Region Community Foundation has given (Health Care Action Team) considerable encouragement and support since our inception, and we are extremely grateful.”

Ney said other foundations have their board meetings upcoming, and will address the physician recruitment incentive grant when they meet. The Health Care Action Team decided in March the money received will be used toward signing and retention bonuses and loan replacement payments. The action team has been working on recruiting doctors for local medical organizations for the past two years. In that time, they have helped to recruit six physicians.

When the action team set its priority list at the end of 2013, orthopedics was second on the list, with neurology and neurosurgery, which should be connected to an academic center, third and fourth on the list, respectively. Ophthalmology, ear, nose and throat and obstetrics and gynecology rounded out the list. The team also made a priority recruitment list for specialty gaps, which included infectious disease; rheumatology; pulmonology; endocrinology; and dermatology.

Health Care Action Team membership includes the Strategic Planning and Partnerships Commission; City Council, physicians, WCA Hospital, the Chautauqua County Health Network, the Chautauqua County Health Department, The Resource Center, Jamestown Community College, the Chautauqua County Office for the Aging, Chautauqua Works, the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation and foundation representatives.

The Health Care Action Team is a working group of the Strategic Planning and Partnerships Commission, and was formed to focus on the impact of health care on development in the community, as well as accessible, high-quality health care for residents.