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Doctor shortage solvable problem Make whole health system efficient and physicians could earn more here

Apparently doctors threw away their stethoscopes and white coats and hid themselves among the hordes of people fleeing Western New York over the last 25 years. The Buffalo Niagara region's shortage of doctors demands increased efficiencies and a push by the medical community to combine resources to offer doctors a high-quality work environment.

According to a recent story by News reporter Henry L. Davis, the Buffalo region is at a disadvantage attracting and retaining doctors, resulting in shortages in some specialties.

The numbers are motivating. Buffalo Niagara was only one of two regions in the state that experienced a loss of doctors in 2000 and 2004. And this region has one of the state's better medical schools, and excellent hospitals for residencies.

This region is losing doctors, radiology specialists, nurses and other health care practitioners to better pay, nicer weather and more sophisticated working conditions with higher-end equipment. Physicians receive uncompetitive pay.

The region, however, has no shortage of hospitals and therein lies part of the solution to the shortage of physicians. If there were fewer beds and hospitals, there would be more money in the major health systems to equip, attract, pay and retain doctors. Further, the doctors here now would not be spread as thin, enhancing their quality of life and work.

The shortage lies in trained physicians willing to stick around following residency, or to relocate here. Once they arrive, many find the area's reasonable cost of living refreshing. The challenge is to lure and retain physicians and other medical personnel who have their pick, in many cases, of high, six-figure salaries, benefits and universally desirable locations.

The region's medical decision makers should continue looking for efficiencies, especially by ridding it of unused hospital capacity, while actively working to retain talent.

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