A looming shortage of primary care providers is changing the face of health care
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About the time the first wave of Baby Boomers was opening its solicitations to join AARP, Madison was interrupted with the alarming news that nursing schools could no longer recruit enough faculty to train more nurses. As it turns out, medical schools were quietly plugging the dike of their own impending crisis. Then, in a 2008 report titled “Who Will Care For Our Patients?,” the Wisconsin Council on Medical Education and Workforce warned us that a physician shortage was deepening, eroding the health of Wisconsinites in all areas of the state—even in a city famously surrounded by reality.
The report analyzed data and trends and spelled out some cold, hard facts about the escalating—as in, exponentially—shortage of primary care physicians. Last year, for example, the state had nearly four hundred fewer than we need to adequately care for our population, according to the Wisconsin Hospital Association, which wrote the report on behalf of WCMEW. In a Wisconsin Medical Society survey of 8,000 practicing physicians, the report also concluded, more than a quarter were “dissatisfied with their practice environment, their hours, or their incomes … with 35 percent of physicians indicating the wait times for visits have increased over the past three years.”