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Mounting evidence of a physician specialist shortage is prompting a federal advisory committee to reconsider work force recommendations that seek to limit the number of physicians in training.
"The growing swell of anecdotal information is prompting us to review our assumptions," says David Sundwall, MD, past chairman of the Council on Graduate Medical Education. "A number of specialties have contacted us with concerns of dire shortages." Among the specialists forecasting a shortfall of practitioners: anesthesiologists, gerontologists, cardiologists, pulmonologists, urologists, oncologists, gastroenterologists, hematologists, and a variety of intensive care physicians.
"It’s not just a problem, it’s a crisis," says Stuart Siegel, MD, director of the Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles. State medical associations in Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Washington, Oregon, and California also have reported physician specialist shortages. As a result, salary increases and incentives intended to lure sought-after specialists have more than doubled while primary care physician salaries have remained flat, says the American Medical Association.
The American College of Cardiology estimates demand for cardiologists will rise 66% by 2030. However, the number of cardiologists is only expected to increase by about 30%. Meanwhile, the Dec. 6, 2000, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that while the number of doctors who specialize in intensive care will decline "slightly" by 2030, the demand for their services will rise 66%, which it said will hurt the elderly in particular.