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doctor shortage

Kerry Klein / KVPR

Earlier this summer, a contract between CalViva health and Kaiser Permanente left 9,000 Medi-Cal patients in the San Joaquin Valley to find all new doctors. We were curious how that transition happened, so we set out to find out how significant this change was in the healthcare world and how doctors and patients experienced it.

As part of our series Struggling For Care, we invited listeners to call in with their experiences trying to find doctors in the San Joaquin Valley. Some audio clips below are directly taken (with permission) from voicemails left on our tip line, others from more in-depth conversations. All highlight the frustration, helplessness and occasionally high stakes of a region with too few medical providers.

Saint Agnes Medical Center

Amidst a shortage of physicians in the San Joaquin Valley, local opportunities for graduate medical training are expanding.

For the first time in its 88-year history, Saint Agnes Medical Center in Fresno is becoming a teaching hospital with the launch of an internal medicine residency program in July 2018. It will accept 16 residents the first year and grow to 40 after three years.

Kerry Klein / KVPR

As the San Joaquin Valley struggles with a shortage of primary care physicians, one group in particular is stepping in to fill in the gaps: doctors born or trained in foreign countries. And while the planned repeal of the DACA program is President Trump’s most recent immigration policy change, he’s hinted at others that could influence the flow of foreign physicians into the Valley. This installment of our series Struggling For Care explores the valley’s complicated relationship with international doctors.

Kerry Klein / KVPR

When we consider medical providers, what comes to mind may be doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. But what about pharmacists? A new law has allowed them to greatly expand their role to become providers—which could be good news for patients struggling to access doctors. But one major obstacle still stands in the way of pharmacists taking on patients. This latest installment of our series Struggling For Care begins with the story of a community pharmacist in Kern County looking toward the future.

UCSF

As we reported earlier this summer, the Fresno area could soon be home to two medical schools. While that may seem like a great opportunity for creating home-grown doctors, research suggests local residencies and fellowships could be more important for keeping doctors here. But the Valley lags behind the state in those training opportunities, too.

Kerry Klein / KVPR

For much of 2017, healthcare has dominated the headlines. But while access to insurance coverage remains a national debate, here in the San Joaquin Valley, getting to see a doctor isn’t always easy, even for people who have coverage. It’s not a new problem, and it’s not unique to the valley, but this area is especially hard hit by a lack of physicians.

ZDoggMD

At the intersection of popular culture and health care innovation is a man the internet knows as ZDoggMD. Thanks to his forward thinking ideas about what he calls Health 3.0, he’s been featured in The Atlantic, Forbes,

California Health Sciences University

For decades, San Joaquin Valley residents have been calling for a medical school. Plans at UC Merced have stalled, and a state bill that would have brought a public medical school to Fresno State died in the state assembly in March. And yet, the Fresno area could be home to not only one, but two private medical schools—in just two years.

Flickr user Lidor, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

We all know the valley doesn't have enough doctors. But why? Is the high percentage of Medi-Cal patients in the valley, and low reimbursement rates for physicians who accept them? Is it the lack of a stand-alone medical school, or not enough medical residency programs? Or is it quality of life issues like air quality and access to big city amenities keeping physicians away from communities in need?

Fresno State / http://www.fresnostate.edu/president/investiture/images/castro-photos09.jpg

Fresno State President Joseph Castro says he wants to see any new effort to build a public medical school in the San Joaquin Valley be a collaboration between the UC and CSU systems.

Last month, Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula introduced a bill in Sacramento that would authorize a new medical school at Fresno State. But the state’s master plan for higher education calls for medical schools to be the domain only of the University of California.

Fresno State / Official Facebook Account

A new bill introduced in the California Legislature last week by Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula calls for the authorization of a new medical school at California State University, Fresno. Arambula, who is a former emergency room physician from Fresno County, says training more doctors locally is one way to help solve the valley's chronic physician shortage. 

Jeffrey Hess/KVPR

Have you ever called your doctor or hospital seeking an appointment and been told the wait will be weeks or maybe months? You have been affected by the Central Valley’s doctor shortage.

Now more than one group is pushing a potential solution, locally sourced doctors from a new medical school.

Being in a waiting room at the doctor’s office isn’t the most pleasant place to be.

But waiting to get into that waiting room can be even worse.

That is what health care experts call a ‘doctor shortage’ and in the valley it’s bad.

Three Year California Medical School Pilot Program Set to Begin

Jun 9, 2014
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Students in a pilot accelerated medical school program at UC Davis will begin classes this summer. A bill in the California legislature would allow them to obtain licenses in less than four years. Capital Public Radio’s Max Pringle reports.

The program was set up to address a growing problem in California.

Bonilla: “We have far more patients than we have doctors.”

Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

In a cramped cubicle in the Sunnyside neighborhood of Fresno County, Neng Yang is playing a small role in the country’s healthcare overhaul. On this afternoon, she’s helping a Hmong woman enroll in Medi-Cal.

“She prefers English, so her kids can read to her, because she doesn’t read and write in Hmong, and sometimes the translation gets lost when it’s sent to her in Hmong,” says Yang, a certified enrollment counselor at Fresno Center for New Americans.

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