As Congress considers physician shortage, local healthcare providers already taking steps

MHC Healthcare will start a residency program for primary care in hopes of keeping physicians who participate
Published: Jun. 26, 2023 at 7:16 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - The barriers to seeing a doctor in southern Arizona exist across the nation. Now there’s a house bill aimed at a long-term solution to reducing the physician shortage. But the help has its limits, and the doctor shortage means competition among healthcare providers. MHC Healthcare is already starting its own program while Congress decides if the federal government will help.

“My doctor’s moving; I’m going to follow her,” said MHC Healthcare patient Vicki Pottinger. But she’s not leaving MHC. The availability of appointments has served her well.

“Usually not too bad. I usually get in,” she said.

Visits for her are easy, but that’s not the case for many elsewhere.

“There are many challenges. Primary care is not an easy specialty,” said MHC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jenitza Serrano-Feliciano. She’s also a family physician and knows that to get a doctor to stay somewhere, it helps to offer them residency out of medical school.

“It’s very common for residents to stay where they train,” she said.

MHC has a plan to attract and keep new physicians.

“I am very excited or we are all very excited about this program,” she said.

“We know that 50 percent of doctors that complete their graduate medical education in Arizona stay here to practice,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Arizona, as he announced signing onto the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act. Nationally, it would offer 14,000 Medicare-supported residency positions over the next seven years.

We are behind. This is us trying to catch up. And you’re not going to be able to do this overnight. This is a pipeline issue because we have to start basically at medical school. And then from medical school, get them into the GME residency program and then hopefully get them to stay,” Rep. Gallego said.

Probably will not affect us in the community health center as we don’t get direct Medicare funding for our residencies,” Dr. Serrano-Feliciano said in regard to the bill’s impact on MHC if it passes. And there’s no guarantee that will happen. MHC has a plan in place and is moving forward.

“The more physicians you train, the more passionate they are for the underserved,” she explained.

And Vicki Pottinger is staying in MHC, even if it means going to a different clinic.

“It’s just too much to go through that again with somebody new,” she said.

MHC starts training four new residents in July. It’s a three-year program, so when it’s in full swing, MHC will have 12 residents in training.

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