AAFP Statement: More Community Health Centers with Fewer Family Doctors to Take Care of Patients – A Situation Rife with Contradiction
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237, Ext. 5224
Larry S. Fields, M.D.
American Academy of Family Physicians
"Everyone agrees that Community Health Centers, started as a pilot program by the Clinton Administration and expanded by President George W. Bush, have been an unmitigated success. They provide a full range of primary and preventive care services to mostly low-income and uninsured patients – the type of care proven to improve health outcomes and reduce unnecessary medical expenditures. These 3,700 urban and rural centers deliver the additional benefit of reducing the strain on hospital emergency rooms, where the uninsured often must go when a health problem becomes a medical crisis.
"President Bush has praised the effectiveness of the nation’s Community Health Centers as examples of 'something that is working' in our health care system. He's investing $780 million to build more clinics. It's the right thing to do.
"But health care is about more than bricks and mortar. It's also about highly trained professionals delivering state-of-the-art medicine. And today, there simply are not enough family physicians to staff those centers. In fact, nearly one of every five positions for family physicians is vacant in the typical Community Health Center in the United States.
"The answer would seem apparent: Train more doctors likely to practice in Community Health Centers, right?
"Yet the Administration's 2007 budget, which proposes to build more centers, also proposes to eliminate federal funding of training programs for family physicians.
"The provision targeted for elimination, Section 747 of Title VII, provides funds to academic departments and programs to increase the number of family physicians entering the workforce. A new research report in the Journal of the American Medical Association confirms that the growth planned for Community Health Centers cannot occur or be sustained without medical personnel ― particularly family physicians ― to staff the centers. And, with 400 family physician vacancies in existing clinics, the initiative is bound to stall, say the researchers.
"They go on to say that the federal physician training program slated to lose funding 'is the only federal program that…has been successful in improving the supply of primary care practitioners in underserved settings.'
"The Administration's 2007 budget rightly proposes to invest more in one successful program, while defunding another program that is vital to that success. It makes no sense.
"The current plan is penny wise and pound foolish. How can we propose to spend $780,000,000 on buildings and neglect to spend just a fraction of that amount to ensure there are enough family doctors to make those buildings fulfill their purpose?
"All sides agree that expanding Community Health Centers is a sound investment. But we need to make sure we have trained enough doctors to serve on the front lines so that when a patient walks in the door, there is a doctor on staff to help."
# # #
Note to journalists: To interview Dr. Fields, please contact Leslie Champlin at (800) 274-2237, Ext. 5224 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 110,600 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care.
Approximately one in four of all office visits are made to family physicians. That is 240 million office visits each year — nearly 87 million more than the next largest medical specialty. Today, family physicians provide more care for America’s underserved and rural populations than any other medical specialty. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focused on integrated care.
To learn more about the specialty of family medicine, the AAFP's positions on issues and clinical care, and for downloadable multi-media highlighting family medicine, visit www.aafp.org/media. For information about health care, health conditions and wellness, please visit the AAFP’s award-winning consumer website, www.FamilyDoctor.org.