Growing need for primary care doctors in CNY

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — A shortage in healthcare workers. It’s a nationwide crisis, and Central New York is no exception.

Primary care physicians are in high demand here in the region.

“I have 40 new patient packages, they are sitting on my desk, that I have not gone through, and I am just one primary care physician,” said Dr. Digant Nanavati, primary care physician at Brighton Medical Associates and president of the Onondaga County Medical Society.

A growing concern for Nanavati.

“On average, we get about eight new patients a day for us to pick up, and our practices are full to the max we can,” said Nanavati.

Leaving many without primary care doctors. Others are having to wait months until they can be seen.

“Overall as a system, we need close to 30 new primary care physicians in this area,” said Nanavati.

Health care facilities like St. Joseph’s Health are also in need of nurse practitioners, physician assistants and more.

“Really since the pandemic, we’ve been struggling both with staffing and provider issues, physicians, nurse practitioners, APP’s, as most other health organizations have,” said Julianne Himes, senior vice president and medical group president at St. Joseph’s Health.

The reason? There are many, with alternative practice models, like urgent care, telemedicine options that allow providers to work remotely. An aging physician population, and patients living longer because of healthcare advances also are playing a role.

“We have those, all of those components and a lot of patients to take care of, and certainly we want to take care of all the patients that we can. But as other practices and other groups in the Central New York area have had to limit their patients, so have we,” said Himes.

“A lot of our physicians in our county are aging, and when they leave, it’s going to be even more difficult,” said Nanavati.

Even with a shortage, St. Joe’s is staying optimistic.

“We continue to bring in new providers. We have a host of new physicians, app’s starting over the next six months, so we’re really in this pattern now of starting to grow and expand which is exciting. The goal is really to bring in as many primary care physicians and APP’s as we can,” said Himes.

While staying optimistic, St. Joe’s continues to take care of its patients and workers. The hospital says flexibility has been key with more virtual care approaches and different schedules to meet staff where they are at.

“We continue to recruit aggressively and really be able to bring more nursing and staff in to help support the health care operations,” said Himes.

Working to fill the void.

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