Posted in The Berkshire Eagle, Friday, July 19, 2019 5:15 pm
To the editor:
Like Berkshire Health Systems, Community Health Programs shares the physician recruitment issues that pose a challenge to medical care in our rural community. However, we are concerned that The Eagle and its reporter did not include CHP’s perspective in its reporting on this issue (“The Doctor Debt,” July 14). Our healthcare network serves more than 32,000 Berkshire County patients with adult and pediatric primary care, women’s health and dental care and other medical care, and recruitment is a daily, ongoing issue.
While your article focused mainly on specialists, the recruitment challenge for primary care physicians is acute and possibly more pressing, as these are the healthcare providers we rely on to provide a gateway to health and specialty care. We have recently had notable success with excellent physician recruitment, but we must remain diligent and creative in our efforts due to pending retirements and retention issues.
In addition to the inherent challenges of drawing doctors to rural health practices, there are inefficiencies in the state’s licensure and credentialing pipeline that further impede staffing efforts, especially for out-of-state physicians wishing to join us. Action now taking place at the state level could ease this process and improve our supply of healthcare providers.
These efforts include:
— State Sen. Adam Hinds (D-Pittsfield) has proposed legislation requiring the state Board of Registration in Medicine to finalize, within 90 days of application, credentialing applications from physicians or provide temporary licensure pending a final decision.
— Other pending legislation would restore Medicaid graduate medical education payments as a recruitment and retention tool, which, in part, would help address physician shortages. Massachusetts is one of only eight states in the nation that do not utilize this policy tool.
— To improve recruitment and retention of nurse practitioners in community health settings, another pending bill would double the number of nurse practitioner post-graduate residency training spots at community health centers throughout the state.
— Mass Collaborative, representing healthcare payers, providers and trade associations, is urging changes that would improve and streamline credentialing and licensure, both for the state and for insurance companies.
Thankfully, physicians are no longer the sole providers of primary care: nurse practitioners and physician assistants have joined physicians on the front lines of patient care. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) counts approximately 270,000 licensed nurse practitioners in the U.S; federal projections have forecasted a 93 percent increase in the number of full-time equivalent NPs between 2013 and 2025.
Meanwhile, we are grateful for increased awareness and education about our physician supply and other healthcare issues in our community. We look forward to being a helpful resource in your future reporting on our region’s healthcare issues.
Lia Spiliotes, Great Barrington
The writer is chief executive officer, Community Health Programs.