Physician recruitment no easy task

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.



9 Responses to Physician recruitment no easy task

  1. Eastern Sierra local September 17, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

    Ah yes, the proverbial conundrum of health care in America; and “Obama-Care”- which mandates that everyone prove health coverage (never mind that illegal aliens AREN’T required to prove citizenship) doesn’t mandate a single doctor or nurse in it’s bill. So with the additional ~25 million people covered without the increase in doctors or nurses (just 15,000 new IRS agents) image how terrible health care in America will be in 2025?

    • sierragrl September 18, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

      Thanks for parroting some of the junk being spewed on TV these days. Personally, I prefer to think for myself.

      How would that mandate for new doctors and nurses look? A lottery (kinda like the hunger games, but no-one dies) is held and every 17 year old selected has to go to Medical school? I mean really, think, please, before you parrot! The bill does include incentives to increase the number of doctors, but that will of course take time and it also increases the payments to doctors for many services.

      We already had a doctor shortage (except for, wait for it…..Dermatologists and Plastic surgeons! where we have plenty) and that shortage is getting worse with or without Obamacare…about a third of the country’s doctors are 55 or older. Due to high malpractice insurance, instead of just cutting back on their practice, they’re retiring completely since it doesn’t pencil out the other way

      New doctors aren’t willing to become generalists. ‘primary care doctors make about $200,000 a year. Specialists often made twice as much’ (or a ton more if they find a sweet niche). Financial aid is disappearing for all but the poor. If you are going to come out of medical school with student loans of $300,000, are you going to become a generalist who has to see 50 patients a day to pay the bills or a specialist?

      At the same time, that huge group called the baby boomers is reaching an age where they require significantly more health care. Want to blame that on Obama too?

      And let’s not forget our wonderful ‘for profit’ medical system where we pay employees as little as possible in order to pay the share holders and boards the large sums they demand. How many companies are getting a slice of the pie with our current system? And guess who is behind the garbage being spewed on TV? That’s right…those who stand to lose the big profits they’re squeezing out of our health care system. I’m all for profit for businesses etc, but not for health care. health care for profit makes no sense! Let’s pay the people involved, pay for the technology, buildings, etc, but let’s stop paying out 30% to people who add no value to the process!

      • Ken Warner September 18, 2012 at 7:50 pm #

        Well said. But you forgot about his main point that if the medical system has to treat everybody, then everybody gets less care — which must imply that we should deny a certain group of people health care so that a certain other group of people can get better care.

        Guess which group he belongs to?

  2. Chris September 17, 2012 at 5:28 pm #

    Well written and informative article. It’s too bad that more doctors can’t be lured to Bishop; we really need them. I hope NIH is successful in its recruitment effort. We have so much to offer new doctors, not just in the way of outdoor activities, but in the varied population here. Young doctors could learn so much.

  3. Trouble September 17, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

    I’m glad to hear their trying to find a doctor or two.. I think our city council should try to help.

  4. JJ September 17, 2012 at 9:59 pm #

    No need for City Council, John Halfin makes over 300k a year, he is surely capable. Oh wait, we still have a beautiful new building that cannot open. Lets blame the State one more time.

    • Benett Kessler September 18, 2012 at 10:22 am #

      FYI, JJ, The new hospital building is on track for getting its final license.
      Benett Kessler

  5. Terribone September 18, 2012 at 11:07 am #

    Beautiful, fancy new building and facilities = higher health care costs for locals.

  6. Big AL September 18, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

    ESL .. while I am not fan of Obama care either, your rants on this subject just doesn’t really apply, especially throwing in illegal aliens and IRS agents. C’mon!
    Sierragrl hit it pretty much on the head, Malpractice, cost of living .. Dr’s not wanting to generalize, rather want to specialize and get the big bucks. Trying to get a Dr. here has always been a challenge, the ones that decide to come here, either love it or they don’t.
    JJ, news flash …. the hospital is a business, bottom line, while there are many in that hospital that care abut what they do and care about the people here, it is still a business. And it is the only hospital we have, with some very devoted, caring people working there, thank God we have it. It may not always be the best, but it sure beats not having any medical care.
    Unfortunately, we will probably be paying some higher costs for it … but Trouble, I have to disagree with you on the city … it’s not really their business other than to apply pressure but what can they really do?
    We just need to hope and pray we can get some more good Dr’s to come here and live and serve.


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