Senator Chuck Schumer's Resident Physician Shortage Act would create more opportunities for primary care doctors in training. It proposes to add 15,000 Medicare-supported residency slots over the next few years, with an emphasis on rural area hospitals.
Champlain Valley Physician Hospital in Plattsburgh is taking its own steps to put primary care physicians back on the floors.
"When we were looking at ways to integrate the academics we have over at UVM here, it made sense to first look at primary care," says Dr. John King of the University of Vermont's Department of Family Medicine.
CVPH plans to start a 3-year family residency program by July of 2016. Through a partnership with Fletcher Allen Health Care, medical graduates from the University of Vermont will be among those recruited. The program will be open to medical college graduates across the country.
"They get more one-on-one time with the teachers," says King. "There are fewer learners around so, they're more likely to see the interesting cases on their own and do procedures."
By 2016, CVPH plans to have 4 resident physicians. By 2018, they plan to have twelve, eventually increasing to 6 residents per year.
"If you train residents in a location, they're likely to stay there," says King. "More than half of our residents have stayed in Vermont that we've trained there."
According to a report by the State University of New York's Center for Health Workforce Studies, the North Country had 73 primary care physicians per 100,000 patients in 2010. That dropped to 60 in 2013.
"It makes more sense to have generalist physicians in rural areas, but many physicians want to specialize highly in because it pays more," says King.
According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, New York State is meeting 40 percent of its primary care needs, one of the lowest rates in the country.