CAMDEN, N.J. and NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J., Jan. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- A statewide Physician Workforce Policy Task Force, convened since 2007 by the New Jersey Council of Teaching Hospitals (NJCTH) today called for the establishment of a new state "Center for Medical and Health Workforce Planning;" the infusion of new state and federal support; and, a revision of existing programs over the next decade in order to forestall "an unprecedented shortfall" in the number of physicians available to treat patients. Task Force members outlined their findings and recommendations at Cooper University Hospital in Camden and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick.
"A physician shortage crisis is right around the corner in New Jersey if we do not take immediate steps to change course," said J. Richard Goldstein, MD, President and CEO, New Jersey Council of Teaching Hospitals. "National health reform, while laudable and needed, will only work to accelerate the time when there simply will not be enough doctors to serve New Jersey's adults and children."
Dr. Goldstein added, "We understand the extraordinary fiscal stress New Jersey is currently facing and that not all of our recommendations, particularly those with a price tag, can be implemented immediately. But we also do not want to leave Federal funds on the table that are rightfully ours and would encourage the Governor and Legislators to make these relatively small investments a budgetary priority."
Following an intensive study which began in 2007 by experts retained by NJCTH, the main finding of the Task Force was summarized as follows:
New Jersey is facing significant future shortages in both primary care and several specialty areas. In eleven years (2020), there is a projected shortfall of over 2,800 additional physicians beyond the current physician graduate medical education (GME) production pipeline representing a 12 percent gap in the physician supply versus the likely population demand for services. The shortage consists of approximately 1,000 primary care physicians and 1,800 specialists.
"This is not about creating a panic or scaring people," said Robert Garrett, President and CEO of Hackensack University Medical Center and Chairman of the NJCTH Board of Trustees. "It is about being prepared for the future. If we take the steps we need to and implement a thoughtful strategy, New Jersey can not only meet its physician needs, but be an example for the nation." NJCTH retained the Center for Health Workforce Studies of the University at Albany (CHWS), who secured the forecast modeling expertise of the Lewin Group and Altarum Institute, to perform an extensive review and modeling utilizing a number of data sources including the American Medical Association (AMA) "Masterfile of Physicians," the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners database, the AMA Resident database, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development data, and the NJCTH New Jersey Resident Exit Survey results.
"New Jersey's medical schools and teaching hospitals can do the job, but we cannot do this alone," explained Thomas A. Cavalieri, DO, Dean, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey's School of Osteopathic Medicine. "This report lays out a road map that those of us in higher education as well as those who are public policy makers can follow."
"Without a doubt, New Jersey's physicians are the best in the nation," said Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Louis Greenwald (D-Camden). "We must continue to support the development and education of medical professionals so New Jersey families can have access to the high-quality health care they need."
"By making relatively small investments today, we can make sure that the medical infrastructure is in place to fulfill our obligation to New Jersey patients," said Senator Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth). "I look forward to working with the new Administration of Governor Christopher Christie on this important public health issue."
"Clearly, there is much work to be done over the next decade to ensure there are enough doctors to care for New Jersey's patients," said Assembly Higher Education Committee Chairwoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden). "By bringing the medical and education communities together to look for innovative solutions, we will be able to take steps to avert a potential physician shortage."
"We may not be able to do everything that is recommended by the Task Force overnight given our budgetary constraints, but we can start right away doing what we can," said Assemblywoman Amy Handlin (R-Monmouth), a member of the Assembly Health Committee. "The first step is to make sure the public understands that the looming doctor shortages are real and certain to affect every family in New Jersey: From the woman who needs a mammogram to the man with chronic back pain to the infant who can only be saved by a pediatric specialist. As the report points out, New Jersey's hostile medical malpractice environment is driving physicians away. Tort reform needs to be a part of any solution."
Major recommendations of the Task Force were as follows:
- Create the "Center for Medical and Health Workforce Planning" (Center) to continue monitoring, forecasting, predicting, and refining recommendations. The Center will collect and analyze data and prepare reports on health workforce supply and demand trends. The Center will guide the allocation of resources based on workforce needs, track physician and advanced practice provider shortages to determine GME and other funding priorities, manage "vacant" resident positions, and direct funds to the individual programs with greatest impact on workforce retention and recruitment.
- Align strategic planning, annual goals and incentives between the medical schools, teaching hospitals and the State of New Jersey.
- Expand retention and recruitment initiatives to encourage physicians to enter, remain in, or return to practice in New Jersey by taking the following steps:
- Create a fellowship-training fund and physician recruitment fund targeting physicians leaving the state for additional medical training. These programs would motivate physicians to return to practice medicine in New Jersey post graduation.
- Expand the current loan redemption program to target specialties with the most significant shortages.
- Establish a three-year state tax forgiveness program, practice subsidy fund, and a loan assistance program for new physicians.
- Expanding pipeline programs (K-12) that motivate and prepare New Jersey's children for medical careers.
- Identify, target, and enroll students in medical schools who will more likely practice in New Jersey.
- Establish "incentive grants" for medical schools and teaching hospitals that reward retention of graduates post graduation.
- Enhance state funding for medical education and postgraduate physician residency programs.
- Pursue federal reforms to address systemic problems in GME funding mechanisms, administrative processes, and regulatory oversight.
The full report can be obtained by calling NJCTH at 609-656-9600 or by emailing Deborah Briggs at email@example.com.
Contact: Donald Sico (609-351-3591)
SOURCE New Jersey Council of Teaching Hospitals