A new study conducted by IHS Markit, a British information provider, found that Florida faces a looming physician shortage fueled by rapid population growth. The report states that if current trends continue, the projected shortfall in Florida would amount to 17,924 physicians by 2035. This shortage would mean patient access to primary and specialty physicians would only be sufficient to meet the needs of three-fourths of the state’s population.
In order to mitigate the crisis, Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida CEO Justin Senior announced that the organization plans to request that the state Legislature increase training slots in the Statewide Medicaid GME Residency Program by increasing program funding by $38 million.
“Protecting the health of Floridians requires great access to primary and specialty physicians. The future of Florida’s healthcare system is threatened by a doctor shortage due to the one-two punch of Florida’s growing population and a wave of older physicians retiring from practice,” said Senior. “We are requesting that the state invest an additional $38 million in general revenue into the GME program. This would generate a total of $95 million for the GME program when matched with federal funding. This is a win-win for Florida because we leverage more federal funds with the additional state investment, while also safeguarding Florida patients’ access to quality healthcare for years to come.”
Florida is home to 10 medical schools across the state that educate thousands of prospective doctors on an annual basis, growing from just 4 in the prior two decades.
Florida is anticipated to have a booming population growth by 2035, with an estimated 25.4 million residents by 2035. Growing numbers necessitate an increased medical workforce that can accommodate a statistically older and more vulnerable people group.
“Timely access to physician services is critical to a vibrant healthcare delivery system that can meet Floridians’ ever-increasing healthcare needs. To serve Florida’s growing population, we must proactively build and retain a physician workforce in Florida by ensuring that we have educational and training programs with the capacity to produce the projected number of physicians in the next decade, said Florida Hospital Association CEO and President Mary Mayhew. “Research shows that physicians are most likely to practice medicine where they complete their residency, which is why it is so critical to invest in quality residency programs throughout our state.”
Alongside the forthcoming physician shortage, Florida is currently facing a nursing shortage that has affected primary care. In south Florida, regional hospitals are depending on local universities and vocational centers to serve as a pipeline for registered nurses, according to NBC Miami.
“The report comes as no surprise, given the worsening labor crisis being experienced in the health care sector, including among our member nursing centers and assisted living communities,” said Florida Health Care Association Chief Executive Officer Emmett Reed. “Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, our state’s long term care facilities are struggling to fill critical roles because there aren’t enough workers to meet the demand of a growing elderly population. A strong workforce is a critical component in the overall quality of care that our state’s seniors receive in long term care facilities. We look to work with the Florida Legislature on solutions that will help recruit and retain the best caregivers to meet the needs of those residents who are entrusted to our care.”
Healthcare regulation and industry expectations are anticipated to be a leading topic during the upcoming January legislative session, where the GME program funding increase will be discussed.