Doctor shortage could affect your care

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – We are facing a doctor shortage like never before.

24 Hour News 8 wanted to find out what is behind the shortage and what it is going to mean for you. So we took our questions to Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine on the Medical Mile in Grand Rapids, where tomorrow’s doctors are being trained.

But officials said it is not enough.

“It’s that residency position that is in short supply across the country,” said Marsha Rappley, dean of MSU’s College of Human Medicine.

The Association of American Medical Colleges says residency programs are in jeopardy due to a 1997 law, in which Congress capped the cash flow to residency programs.

So far, it hasn’t been a problem because hospitals have picked up the bills, but that may be changing.

“As things change for health systems, and the reimbursements are dropping for all dimensions of our health systems, the money that was previously available to support those extra positions is in jeopardy,” said Rappley.

Spectrum Health and Mercy Health Saint Mary’s work together, heading up the residency programs here in Grand Rapids.

Some West Michigan hospitals said the lack of funding is a national issue that is affecting everyone.

Spectrum Health released a statement to 24 Hour News 8, saying in part, “Continued cuts in federal funding make it harder for us (and others) to continue to meet our obligations moving forward.”

Mercy Health Saint Mary’s echoed those sentiments saying, “…both institutions are stressed by the total number of learners needing experience.”

That is because medical students will be graduating but residency slots may not be waiting for them.

The Association of American Medical Colleges says we will see a shortage of 4,400 doctors in Michigan, and 91,000 fewer doctors nationwide, by 2020.

Officials said they expect that number to grow to 130,000 by 2025.

Less money and fewer positions means fewer doctors to help you.

Access to care is the biggest question. So how long will people have to wait to get an appointment?

“It’s a question right now. It’s a serious problem right now,” said Rappley.

That leaves uncertainty in doctors’ offices and waiting rooms across the country. No one knows exactly what it will be like for you come 2020 — if our health care system is 91,000 doctors lighter.

24 Hour News 8 checked to see what is being done on the legislative level and took our questions to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. On Thursday on “Daybreak,” we reported what we found out and what changes our medical schools have put in place in hopes of getting more doctors into the workforce.

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