Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be doctors

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By Delisa Russell

By Delisa Russell

Just when we there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon for the millions of Americans without health insurance, the results of the most recent survey by the Physicians’ Foundation casts a cloud over the issue.

A majority of the doctors that responded said they are already overworked, overextended and unable to accept any new patients. Half of the respondents said they will actually be cutting back on patients over the next three years.

What good will universal healthcare be if there won’t be enough doctors to see all the newly insured patients? Physicians assistants can only do so much.

An exhausted, frustrated 13 percent of the survey respondents said they plan to seek new positions where they wouldn’t be required to work with patients, which is comforting to know because who wants to be seen by a stressed out doctor that would rather not be there?

On that note-42 percent of the doctors who replied said that they feel the professional morale of their colleagues is either “poor” or “very low”.

A small percentage of doctors plan to reduce their schedules and workload from full to part-time.

Apparently part-time doctors only heal people every other day. The patients of those particular doctors may suffer if the new revised schedules of their doctors don’t meet the availability of their own life schedules. They will likely seek out a new physician that better meets their needs, if they can find one.

They are fed up with paperwork, patients, payments not being made by the insurance companies, and government programs not paying them what they feel there services are worth.

Sixty percent of the doctors said they would not recommend medicine as a career and only 27 percent stated that they would choose the same career path again.

The survey was mailed to 270,000 primary care doctors and 50,000 practicing specialists. A mere 12,000 physicians replied.

A small number, indeed. Still, the organization that conducted the survey feels that those 12,000 answers are enough to represent the medical community as a whole, with a 1 percent margin of error.

For 78 percent of physicians, medicine is “no longer rewarding” or is “less rewarding.”

That’s a large number of miserable doctors practicing medicine.

Doctors said that the state and federal health insurance programs such as Medi-Cal, and Medicaid give them a hard time when it’s time to pay up and that when they do they don’t pay enough.

Many doctors have simply stopped accepting patients with these kinds of insurances.

People with HMO’s are required to get a referral from a primary care physician before they can visit a specialist on the insurance companies’ dime. I suspect that particular policy is to blame for the flood of patients overwhelming the primary care physicians’ offices.

People covered by the state program Medi-Cal aren’t required to obtain those referrals to visit with a specialist, but since it is so difficult to locate doctors that accept state and federal programs, the ones that do accept those programs are often booked many months into the future. That inconvenience leads to overcrowded emergency rooms and urgent care centers.

I actually thought that the financial rewards and exalted social status of being a doctor would certainly outweigh the less desirable aspects of their work. However, only 17 percent of the survey replies rated the financial position of their practices as “healthy and profitable.”

Now that the doctors of our nation have exposed their angst to us, what is the appropriate response from the masses of empathetic patients?

Sympathy cards just don’t seem appropriate here. Besides, they wouldn’t have time to read them anyway.

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