The main reason primary care physician spots are not being filled, especially in upstate New York, is because they’re at the low end of the compensation spectrum, Dalton said. Doctors frequently choose to go into more lucrative fields or move to urban areas. That’s the root of the problem. However, that aspect often gets overlooked, he said.
“It’s a big deal. If you’re a 25- or 28-year-old just out of medical school, and you’ve deferred your earning during that time — plus you’re at the age where you might be thinking of starting a family — and now you have more than $300,000 in student loan debt? That’s daunting,” Dalton said. “A primary-care job is not going to meet that need as easily as a higher-paying job.”
An effective way to attract more primary care physicians would be to increase their salaries, Dalton said. This would provide greater incentive for new doctors to stay in primary care.
It’s important to note that, of the four surrounding counties, Otsego County’s ratio of physicians per 100,000 people was almost double the state average in 2013, said Dalton. Also, the percentage that number has decreased is less than in the other three counties.
“We do better than the average because we have a strong network,” Dalton said, “and because of fairly aggressive recruiters. We’re better situated than most, but the situation is still not great. The truth is, there are a lot of doctors retiring and not a lot coming in from the other end.”