NC using new health care models to tackle doctor shortage - WNCN: News, Weather

NC using new health care models to tackle doctor shortage

Posted: Updated:
RALEIGH, N.C. -

The Triangle is renowned for its medical and research centers. But behind the scenes, there is a shortage of doctors, mostly primary care physicians. Experts believe the shortage nationally could be as high as 130,600 by 2025.

Some believe that Obamacare will complicate the already short supply of doctors.

Dr. Lloyd Michener is the Chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Duke. He says people are struggling these days to find a doctor.

"That's one of the challenges of North Carolina. Like many states are, there are places in the state where it's hard. Eastern North Carolina, up towards the Virginia border, we have places that are severely short," says Michener.

Michener says an aging population and more patients with chronic diseases like diabetes, is contributing to more patients. He also adds that the cost of medical school is having many students pick a specialty practice over the less lucrative primary care. Now tack on Obamacare.

"We're going to have a lot of folks getting insurance, often for the first time, and being able to handle that surge of need is something we're quite concerned about," says Michener.

The state has been developing new health care models, with nurse practitioners and physician's assistants doing more. Duke, where Michener works, pioneered the physician's assistants program, and it is now becoming one of the fastest growing areas in medicine. In 2007, there were 3,016 nurse practitioners. Today, there are 4,600.

But the problem remains.

"We want to make sure medical care is accessible. We are trying to make sure we train enough people," says Michener.

But in rural areas, like Harnett County, the shortage appears to be worse, but that could soon change with new facilities like the Central Harnett Hospital, which opening January, and Campbell's Medical School. Although Campbell is serving as a model to bring in more health care providers to rural areas in North Carolina, medical professionals are bracing for the unknown that comes with ACA.

"I think the honest answer is no one really knows yet," says Dr. Christopher Stewart, hospitalist at Central Harnett Hospital."

Stewart says it's unclear what Obamacare will mean for doctors. 

"We were overwhelmed just taking care of people within a 10 to 15 mile area, so I've lived it firsthand. I've seen people that want to find a doctor, simply cannot find a doctor," says Stewart.

Stewart says the new hospital has been a blessing. Right now, in exchange for a two year commitment to practicing primary care at Central Harnett Hospital, doctors can get government money towards their medical student loans.

"We need OBGYN's, we need general surgeons, we need specialists," says Stewart.

And the hope lies in Campbell University's new School of Osteopathic Medicine.

Stephanie Meadows is a first-year medical student at the new school. Meadows, who grew up in Kinston, says her childhood shaped her decision to become a doctor.

"My brother had asthma growing up. We would have to go to Greenville for different test," says Meadows.

Heather Robinson is a former EMS worker who is now training to be a Physician's Assistant.

"I wanted to go further in medicine because I got tired of dropping off patients and not hearing what happened to them. So I wanted to get involved more," says Robinson.

Stewart says the future lies within PA's and nurse Practitioners. He believes they will provide the bulk of primary care in our state and country.

With the anticipated shortage increasing, the N.C. Institute of Medicine has called on medical schools to increase enrollment by 30 percent. According to the primary care task force update released this year, the University of North Carolina received approval to increase from 160 students to 230, with many of those students in regional campuses in Asheville and Charlotte. But that's on hold until there is enough funding.

Meanwhile, the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University increased from 73 students to 80, but expansion to 120 students is also on hold until there is more funding.

Neither Duke nor Wake Forest expanded its medical school enrollment.

Despite so many looming questions about the future, the desire to practice medicine is as strong as ever.

"I don't feel that my calling to become a physician was impacted on new regulations or politics or even financial aspects of the job. My calling to become a physician is based solely on the need to help others," says Meadows.

Attitude like Meadows is allowing other medical professionals to have hope for the future.

"I'm actually incredibly optimistic despite all the problems and the disagreements. We're in one of those transformational times of change," says Michener.

Bianca Spinosa

Bianca Spinosa joined the WNCN news team in July 2013 after reporting for LEX18 in the Bluegrass State. More>>

  • Affordable Care Act Resources

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Mom bites off dog's ear to save daughter during attack

    Mom bites off dog's ear to save daughter during attack

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 2:49 PM EDT2014-04-22 18:49:19 GMT
    Image from CNN/KHOU-TVImage from CNN/KHOU-TV
    In a backyard in Alvin, swings a very lucky girl. Her name is Mackenzi Plass, or Kenzi for short, and she survived a dog attack and has undergone several surgeries."She'll be two and a half in May," said her very proud mother Chelsi Camp. "She's doing great. You wouldn't know it if you couldn't see."Mackenzi has scars on her face after the ordeal just weeks ago that put her mother's animal instincts to the test."You do whatever you can," said Camp. "I don't have physical strength at my side."...
    In a backyard in Alvin, swings a very lucky girl. Her name is Mackenzi Plass, or Kenzi for short, and she survived a dog attack and has undergone several surgeries."She'll be two and a half in May," said her very proud mother Chelsi Camp. "She's doing great. You wouldn't know it if you couldn't see."Mackenzi has scars on her face after the ordeal just weeks ago that put her mother's animal instincts to the test."You do whatever you can," said Camp. "I don't have physical strength at my side."...
  • Owner of Raleigh 'Party Mansion' guilty of tax evasion

    Owner of Raleigh 'Party Mansion' guilty of tax evasion

    Monday, April 14 2014 4:07 PM EDT2014-04-14 20:07:04 GMT
    Claude Verbal II, who now lives in Miami, pleads guilty to a number of federal tax evasion charges.
    Claude Verbal II, who now lives in Miami, pleads guilty to a number of federal tax evasion charges.
  • Indictment: Prosecutor was target of Wake Forest kidnapping

    Indictment: Prosecutor was target of Wake Forest kidnapping

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 6:57 PM EDT2014-04-22 22:57:33 GMT
    The U.S. Department of Justice said Kevin Melton has been charged with conspiring to kidnap in relation to the abduction of Frank Janssen from his Wake Forest homeThe U.S. Department of Justice said Kevin Melton has been charged with conspiring to kidnap in relation to the abduction of Frank Janssen from his Wake Forest home
    Nine people have been indicted in connection with the kidnapping of a Wake Forest man whose daughter prosecuted a high-ranking member of the Bloods street gang.
    Nine people have been indicted in connection with the kidnapping of a Wake Forest man whose daughter prosecuted a high-ranking member of the Bloods street gang.
Powered by WorldNow

1205 Front St., Raleigh
N.C., 27609

Telephone: 919.836.1717
Fax: 919.836.1687
Email: newstips@wncn.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.