Weather Forecast


New report questions whether there will be shortage of doctors in state

Shamane Mills, Wisconsin Public Radio

A new report questions whether there will be a significant doctor shortage predicted in Wisconsin and elsewhere around the country.

The Institute of Medicine, which is part of the National Academies of Sciences, has published a new report that looks at funding for graduate medical education — in other words, the residency training period after a person receives a medical degree. Authors of the report questioned whether the public is spending money to educate doctors it doesn't need.

Larry Pfeiffer, executive director of the Wisconsin Academy of Family Physicians, thinks no.

“If you take total number of doctors divided by total number of patients, yes, it seems like there's enough,” said Pfeiffer. “But the problem is what the specialty is and where they're located.”

Pfeiffer says a 2011 report by the Wisconsin Hospital Association indicates there is a primary care doctor shortage in the state, which is compounded when doctors aren't spread out in an even way geographically. That report called for an additional 100 doctors a year.

Charles Shabino, chief medical officer with the Wisconsin Hospital Association, said the size of the shortage is difficult to gauge because of the long time it takes to train a doctor.

“There is an inherent difficulty in being 100 percent certain, but I think based on our current shortages, unless we continue to expand our training programs and track people into our rural areas we will have a significant shortage going forward here in Wisconsin,” said Shabino.

Wisconsin is trying to spread doctors across the state. One way it’s trying to reach underserved areas by is by having more doctors train in those locations in the hopes they'll later practice there. The Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee is planning satellite campuses in Wausau and Green Bay.