When the Bishop Family Health Center closed last month, hundreds of patients said they could find no new primary care doctors. Reports to Sierra Wave Media said the Rural Health Clinic would accept no new patients. The situation exists not from a lack of effort on the part of Northern Inyo Hospital. Administrator John Halfen explained that recruitment for primary care and other doctors goes on all the time with a varied success rate.
Administrator Halfen said he spends 20% of his time on physician recruitment. Part of the problem is a general shortage of doctors. The New York Times recently published a story that quoted the Association of American Medical Colleges as estimating that “In 2015 the country will have 62,900 fewer doctors than needed.” They say by 2025 that number will more than double.
The Family Health Center closure highlighted the lack of primary care doctors in Bishop. Halfen said he interviewed one candidate last Friday, and she has yet to make a decision. The Administrator said there are two others who would come to Bishop if they could sell their homes. Three more interviews are coming up. Halfen said, “It’s a difficult time for people to move.”
For many physicians the challenges of the Eastern Sierra do not make for a good choice – a lack of services, limited air service and hundreds of miles from larger cities.
Administrator Halfen said that any doctor recruited by the hospital is then regulated by the institution. He said, “Private doctors can be less constrained.” But these days, a solo practice has a hard time surviving. Government medical reimbursement rates have plummeted.
Halfen said all the doctors he’s talking to would have to practice from the Rural Health Clinic first and then choose whether to go to private practice. He said that more and more Nurse Practitioners are coming in to handle direct medical care under the supervision of two part-time doctors in the Rural Health Clinic.