EUGENE, Ore. — Insurance plans are starting to kick in for people who signed up on Cover Oregon, many of whom didn’t have insurance before.
Now, the search is on for doctors to treat everyone.
Peacehealth officials say there’s a major shortage of primary care doctors in Lane County, and with the influx of customers under Cover Oregon, they won’t be able to accept any new patients until they hire the needed staff.
“There are some estimates that as many as 25 or 30 percent of our primary care physicians have retired in the last two years,” said Dr. Douglas Carr, Vice President of Peacehealth Medical Group in Eugene.
He says the shortage has left Peacehealth a little flat-footed.
Dr. Carr says Peacehealth isn’t the only healthcare provider in Lane County feeling the pinch, and the best way to accommodate more insured patients may be a new approach.
“A lot of it depends upon how we actually deliver care. If we deliver care the same way that we always used to, we won’t have enough physicians,” he says. “If you have a problem, you can call the team and they can identify whether it can actually be taken care of over the phone, whether it can be taken care of by a nurse or a nurse practitioner or a PA, or actually requires a physician to see.”
Linda Lang, the Director of Adult and Family Medicine, says attracting more doctors to the area starts with recruitment, but with no residency program, it’s tough to keep people in Lane County long-term.
“To have an actual residency program it requires quite an infrastructure to support. We are looking at that. It’s been looked at here for many, many years. We’d like to partner with OHSU and other schools in Oregon,” she says.
Dr. Carr says Peacehealth is in the process of recruitment and plans to hire more primary care doctors to add to their current staff of eight.
They hope to have them hired by the start of fall.