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Long Island's primary care doctor shortage expected to worsen in next 10 years, research finds

Long Island facing worsening doctor shortage in next 10 years, study finds
Long Island facing worsening doctor shortage in next 10 years, study finds 02:33

NEW YORK -- Many doctors across Long Island are seeing they just don't have enough time in their days to keep up with demand, and new research shows it could get worse in the next 10 years.

Northwell Health research claims the United States and Long Island are both facing a primary care doctor shortage. Its numbers claim by 2034, America could be dealing with a deficiency of around 48,000 doctors.

"That is 72 million people throughout the U.S. that will be without a doctor," said Dr. Lauren Block, general internist at Northwell Health.

Dr. Block is the senior author of the findings, which stem from the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research.

Her research shows the number of residents choosing general internal medicine has halved in the last 10 years. She says a way to avoid the shortage is to increase pay for primary care doctors, offer college-debt relief and a schedule that allows for better work-life balance.

"Locally, what we have been noting is that we are having a hard time finding general internists to replace our doctors who are retiring," said Dr. Block. "More people are going to work in hospital medicine and other areas that pay more."

"It takes a least three months to get an appointment," said Christine Faherty, of Huntington."Whoever gives me the quickest appt is what I take."

Other medical experts say that's where people may end up too if primary care does start to fade away, leaving them with limited options.

"It makes access to health care much more difficult, and patients up typically going to emergency room," said Dr. Susannah Hills, assistant professor at Columbia University Medical Center. "They just don't have that relationship, that continuity that they have with primary care provider."

Experts say the elderly are most at risk.

Census data form 2020, shows Long Island's overall median age rose two years higher than it was a decade ago, to 42 years old. That surpasses the state and national median age.

So with the island's population aging rapidly, economists fear demand for doctors could grow faster than supply.

"We have to focus on how we can prepare workforce, particularly on the medical side, to meet the aging population group," said David Vitt, associate professor with the Department of Economics at Farmingdale State College.

Experts say to get ahead of this, people should start to get to know a few different doctors in their area, or different partners within a practice. This will give them options, if one is booked. 

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