Report: NJ experiencing shortage of primary care doctors

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EDISON -

According to new figures from a report, New Jersey is experiencing a shortage of primary care doctors, and medical facilities statewide are scrambling to respond.

“When I have tried primary care physicians, they are either really overbooked or it takes forever to get an appointment with them,” Edison resident Rovel Belay said.

A growing number of New Jersey residents are already finding it tough to get an appointment with their primary care physician.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation report, New Jersey is only meeting 34 percent of its primary care physician needs.

Many residents who spoke with News 12 New Jersey said they opt to go to urgent care facilities instead. It's a serious matter that St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson is addressing.

"We don't have enough residency positions. Overall, we don't have enough graduates of medical schools. So, overall, it's a major shortage and the shortage is projected to grow over the years to come,” said Dr. Patrick Michael, of St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center.

Michael said he’s taking measures to encourage doctors to practice primary care in New Jersey.

“What we have done to encourage primary care is No. 1, we've increased the positions. We will take two positions per year. We will offer them all the training they need in primary care,” he said.

Efforts are already underway to make colleges, medical schools and residency programs more attractive. At St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center, they are taking a proactive approach.

In June, Dr. Farisa Ali graduated from the American University of Antigua College of Medicine, a U.S. accredited Caribbean medical school, where 76 percent of the graduates pursue primary care physician residencies.

"I was actually born and raised in Paterson, New Jersey. I witnessed the urban area, the underserved community, so I always wanted to give back to the same community,” she said. “So I was ecstatic when I got residency at St. Joseph's in Paterson, New Jersey.”

Many patients are hoping the efforts will keep primary care physicians, including those at 24-hour urgent care facilities, in New Jersey.

In addition to a Kaiser Family Foundation report, federal numbers show that 45 percent of primary care needs are not being met.

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