KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Report Finds Shortage Of Mass. Physicians Is Getting Worse

The Boston Herald: "The state's physician shortage is getting worse -- with many practices closed to new patients and a critical need for doctors in key specialties, according to a Massachusetts Medical Society report released today. ... The most acute need is for primary-care physicians who practice family or internal medicine. The study called the shortages in those two key areas 'critical.' The report said the situation is getting so bad that nearly half of all primary-care practices are now closed to new patients. In all, 10 of 18 physician specialties studied by the society face either 'critical' or 'severe' shortages. ... Among the physician specialties under staffing strain are dermatology, emergency medicine, general surgery, neurology, orthopedics, psychiatry, urology and vascular surgery" (Fitzgerald, 10/20).

The Boston Globe: "Half of primary care practices in Massachusetts are closed to new patients and wait times for appointments continue to be long, according to a new survey released today by a statewide physicians' association. … When primary care patients do secure an appointment for a non-urgent matter, they have to wait to get in the door, the survey found. The average delay is 29 days to see a family medicine doctor, down from 44 days last year, and 53 days to see an internist, up from 44 days last year" (Cooney, 10/20).

Boston Business Journal: "The vacancy rate for full-time physician positions has dropped to 4.9 percent from 8.1 percent in 2006. Community hospitals, for the most part, are reporting that they are having difficulty filling doctor slots. Fewer academic hospitals than last year reported that it was difficult to recruit doctors this year. The study showed that doctors in Massachusetts are significantly dissatisfied with their salaries, with 57 percent saying their salaries are uncompetitive with other states. The study also showed that more than half are unhappy with the tradeoff between patient care and administrative tasks -- 51 percent, compared with 44 percent last year. Seven percent of the doctors surveyed said they are considering leaving the state, with another 17 percent saying they would consider it if the practice environment does not improve. Twenty-two percent of doctors said they were considering a career change, but researchers said this has been fairly consistent over the past several years" (Donnelly, 10/20).

NECN: "The study found that many of those doctors have been worn by the cost of business and administrative work" (10/20).

The Associated Press/The Boston Globe: "Massachusetts has the highest percentage of insured residents of any state, but access to medical care, especially to primary care doctors and a wide number of specialists, continues to be tight" (10/20). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.