Doctor shortages hit Maryland

Janice and Larry Coombs are missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Frederick from Colorado for a two-year stay. Their main responsibility: to coordinate doctor visits for Spanish-speaking members of the Frederick congregation, both insured and uninsured.

"We've noticed it's really hard to find the doctors," Janice Coombs said. "There are a lot of doctors that are just not taking new patients for one reason or another."

Some doctors the couple have worked with have retired, Coombs said, and they haven't been replaced. Coombs, 65, said she and her husband have taken patients as far as Baltimore for appointments.

"It doesn't seem like there are new doctors coming in to take up the reins and go on," she said.

This trend is statewide. The Maryland Hospital Association commissioned a study on the doctor shortage last year, the most rigorous ever performed in the area, according to association spokeswoman Nancy Fiedler.

After adjusting for part-time and full-time status and the amount of time dedicated to seeing patients, the study found Maryland has the equivalent of 178 active physicians per 100,000 residents. The U.S. average is 212 per 100,000.

Western Maryland, which includes Frederick County, has only about 140 full-time equivalent physicians per 100,000 residents, according to the study. This includes 50 primary care doctors per 100,000, short of the 58.2 recommended in the 2002 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, according to the study.

Using guidelines from several sources, including the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and the Graduate Medical Education National Advisory Council, the study found that Western Maryland has a shortage in primary care and 19 of 28 identified specialties. The study predicts this shortage will expand to 21 specialties by 2015. Read whole article here

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