This week saw two important events for our system to reflect on regarding our role in supporting family medicine, and access to primary care. On Thursday evening HealtheConnections, our regional health planning committee, convened a panel to discuss the emerging shortage of primary care physicians. Dr. Tom Wolff, PA program director at SUNY, Dr. James Longo, PA program director at Le Moyne College, Dr. James Tucker, director, Family Medicine Residency at St. Joseph's, and Fred Letourneau, senior vice president for the Physician Enterprise at St. Joseph's presented. They discussed the growing needs in our region for access to primary care and the crisis in physicians. We listened to ways in which we can impact this issue:
*Improving the number of medical students who choose primary care as a residency
*Understanding that encouragement and respect of the field impact student choices
* Incentives for education including loan repayment
*Understanding the importance of practice support for new graduates and ongoing education
*Looking at the role NPs and PAs play in the future environment and team approach for primary care
The committee concluded there is a regional role for seeking support for this growing area of concern. After the Exchanges go live in New York State in January, 2014, more residents will have health coverage, but the question will be where do they get access to a primary care physician?
At St. Joseph's we have been concerned about this issue for several years and began to invest in expansion of our primary care practices. Today we have sites in Baldwinsville, Cazenovia, Syracuse, Liverpool and Fayetteville. To learn more about connecting with a St. Joseph's practice go to www.sjhsyr.org and check out Physician Finder or call 1-888-785-6371 for the resource line.
On Friday evening we held graduation for our Family Medicine Residency. The doctors who graduated are among the best and will be helping supportprimary care in this region. Three are staying with our practices, two are going on to residencies and returning to Syracuse. Additionally they are joining practices in Oneida, Pulaski, the Adirondacks, Glens Falls and some are returning to home communities. The majority are staying in the region and adding to the more than 450 graduates our program has had! Thank you to the faculty for the great job you do in preparing them and in providing primary care yourselves to this community through Heritage Family Physicians.
There is more we can do to grow our residency and support those entering this field. Ideas welcomed as we continue on this journey! It is a critical concern and we must start now to make sure we have adequate access to care for our community.