Schumer bill takes aim at rural doctor shortage

Photo by Flickr user Andres Rueda. Published under Creative Commons license.

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, D-NY, is seeking to pass a bill that would inject new funds into a program that funds doctor training, with preference given to rural areas.

The bill, called the Resident Physician Shortage Act of 2011, was introduced last year by Schumer along with three other Democratic senators: Florida's Bill Nelson, Pennsylvania's Bob Casey and Nevada's Harry Reid.

In a press release yesterday, Schumer's office said that the legislation would enable Medicare to fund an additional 3,000 doctor residency slots every year for five years, half of which would go to hospitals in areas with physician shortages.

The Times-Union reports that New York State would get a big boost from the legislation:

New York hospitals, which train one out of every seven doctors in the nation, could have significant increases if the bill is adopted.

"It's awesome," said Dr. Vincent Verdile, dean of Albany Medical College. "Upstate New York is very rural and getting young men and women to stay here to train, particularly in areas related to primary care, is win-win for Upstate New York."

The Daily Star reports that Oneonta healthcare providers are worried about the local doctor shortage:

"There is certainly a physician shortage," A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital Vice President for Medical Affairs Dr. Ben Friedell said. "It is a significant problem."

The shortage in this region is particularly acute in the area of primary care for adults, according to Friedell.

"OBGYNs, general surgeons, primary care are our major needs right now," Friedell said by phone Wednesday.

The bill has no companion legislation in the House yet. Below: A bill tracker widget from OpenCongress, showing the current status of the legislation.