Florida is short about 1,700 primary care physicians. The struggle to find physicians could pose a real problem for people’s health during a pandemic.
Doctors told us getting an appointment during the busy season is always hard. There is increased worry with the addition of the pandemic, and not enough students are able to get the training needed to become a physician, making the current shortage in the state worse.
“I can tell you that as a primary care physician that my phone rings constantly with patients looking for a doctor,” said Dr. Rebekah Bernard, the president of Collier County Medical Society. “My practice is full.”
Before the pandemic, there was already a primary care physician shortage. Experts say that’s because there aren’t enough doctors in the area to meet the demand of the growing population. That includes doctors retiring and not enough residency positions available for students working to become doctors.
Bernard says the pandemic is causing another strain for students fighting to get a residency spot.
“Not all practices are able to accommodate the same level of students and residents as they might have been able to before the pandemic,”” Bernard explained.
“Hospitals have had to address some of the challenges of limiting the clinical rotations because of all of the precautions and protections that are in case to go to go to the threat of COVID,” said Mary Mayhew, the president and CEO of Florida Hospital Association.
Bernard thinks, as COVID-19 cases increase, doctors will begin to see another shortage of personal protective equipment to keep them safe. They say doctors will get sick, adding to the shortage.
Bernard is also worried about even busier hospitals and doctor’s offices during the pandemic.
“The hospitals always get crowded, and this is the first year that we are also going to see the impact of a novel virus on the influx of patients in hospitals,” Bernard said.