May 8, 2014 7:49 PM
A community health center in Shasta County is overflowing with new patient requests.
So many, that now it has no choice but to refer them elsewhere.
It’s a sign of the major healthcare gap between the number of patients who need care, and the number of doctor available to treat them.
If you've just signed up for health insurance, you might want to think twice about coming to the Shasta Community Health Center the next time you need to see a doctor.
“At this point in time…we’re no longer able to meet the needs of additional adult patients that have not already been assigned to us.”
Now that health coverage is required under the Affordable Care Act, a record number of patients are seeking health care.
“We’ve still got 5,000 patients that have been assigned to us that we haven’t seen yet.”
The health center currently cares for about 40,000 patients and has a full-time medical staff of 37.
“We can only see so many people in a day…and once we’ve hit that saturation point…there’s just no more capacity.”
It's a case of supply and demand, but the problem isn't that there are too many patients enrolling in health insurance -- there just aren't enough doctors to go around.
“Over a couple years…40 doctors closed their offices here in town…”
Dr. Reeder says many of those doctors couldn't afford to keep up with the demands of running a medical office.
He says the bigger problem is attracting future doctors to rural areas, including here in the North State.
“Who wants to come here…the reimbursements are lower here in Northern California.”
But there's some hope -- Mercy Medical and the Shasta Community Health Center both have family practice residency programs affiliated with UC Davis.
Both Dr. Canton and Dr. Reeder think that could bring more doctors to the North State.
As for the new patients who are enrolled but can't be seen by the health center, they have been referred to a partnership health program for their medical needs.
“We are very actively trying to engage with those people now to get them in and taken care of as expeditiously as possible.”
Dr. Reeder says it could take another 5 to 10 years before the North State sees an influx of more physicians.
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