In one answer to a growing shortage of practicing MDs, retired San Francisco area doctors are returning to see patients.
- The returning physicians are part of a program run by the non-profit CoGenerate, which seeks to bring together the older and younger generations to solve community problems.
- The retired doctors return to the office for part-time work through the Encore Physicians program, CBS News reports.
- Since the pandemic, the healthcare sector has faced a growing worker shortage as burnt-out employees leave the practice entirely.
- In at least 13 states, health departments have warned that chronic staffing shortages could affect their healthcare system’s ability to respond to future health disasters, ABC News reports.
Why it’s news
The American Medical Association expects the physician shortage will only worsen in the coming years. By 2024, it expects the U.S. to be short more than 120,000 physicians, CBS News reports.
The current program in San Francisco is one temporary answer to the shortage. In addition to providing extra doctors, these retired physicians can have the added benefit of lightening the full-time doctors’ workloads—reducing the chance of burnout.
After the pandemic, many health officials feel less prepared for another health crisis than before the pandemic.
“Without the personnel to do the hard work of analyzing data, interviewing cases, tracing contacts, testing specimens, and performing other essential public health activities, our nation is less prepared in some ways than it was before 2020,” the director of the Cornell Center for Pandemic Prevention and Response Dr. Jay Varma tells ABC News.
However, oddly enough, about 10% of med-school graduates cannot get jobs. In 2021, for instance, there were a record-setting 42,508 active applicants for residency programs—which is the pathway between med school and being a physician—but only 35,194 first-year positions, according to the National Resident Matching Program.
At the root of the mismatch between physician supply and demand are some outdated rules about how residency programs are funded. While Congress is working on changing how this funding happens, a solution is not coming anytime soon.
Similarly, the American Hospital Association has requested that federal lawmakers renew the Pandemic And All Hazards Preparedness Act. This George W. Bush-era law bolstered the Strategic National Stockpile and provided the U.S. with a reserve of pandemic supplies.
However, the healthcare worker shortage already needed a solution before the pandemic. While a national stockpile of supplies could alleviate some of the difficulties that could arise during another pandemic, the lack of workers will likely remain a problem.
In Georgia, for example, officials have created a statewide healthcare workforce commission aimed at increasing the healthcare workforce. The state struggled to bring in enough nursing staff before the pandemic.