Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Doctor shortages present medical care problems

If Pittsburgh residents wonder why doctor and surgical errors occur, consider that our country currently has only one primary-care physician available for every 2,000 patients. This shortage is likely understated since not everyone in the United States has access to health care, and we're expecting even further physician shortages in the future when key provisions of the Affordable Care Act are enacted.

Several things would need to be done before such a shortage can be corrected, and many such corrective measures are not likely to occur in today's political culture. The President's fiscal commission in Washington already proposed cutting Medicare support for teaching hospitals by $6 billion, and Medicare is likely to continually be underfunded no matter what candidate takes office in November.

The number of students accepted into residency programs designed to train new doctors has been capped for at least 15 years. Without a higher cap, there is likely to be an even greater shortage of doctors in the future. However, with such a higher cap, we also risk bringing in more unqualified individuals into the program seeking medical licenses.

The cost of training a new resident now averages around $145,000. To reduce such a cost would mean to shortcut training of such future doctors - a recipe for more doctor errors and surgical mistakes to occur in the future.

In short, there is likely no governmental cure for reducing medical malpractice claims, and the need for attorneys to represent patients in such matters will be even greater in the future. Hospitals will need to be held accountable to such patients for making certain that doctors do not commit medical blunders.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, "Doctor Shortage May Swell to 130,000 with Cap," by Alex Wayne, August 29, 2012

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Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.
20 Stanwix Street, Seventh Floor
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

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Phone: 412-567-1232
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