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A National Physician Shortage & MLK Jr. Community Hospital Closure Loom Large

A new study conducted by the Association of American Medical Colleges: The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections From 2021 to 2036, projected a positive impact on physician supply if states, teaching health systems and hospitals, Congress, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) continue to build upon their investments in graduate medical education (GME).

 

“Sustained and increased investments in training new physicians are critical to mitigating projected shortfalls of doctors needed to meet the health care needs of our country,” said AAMC President and CEO David J. Skorton, MD. “Most importantly, if additional investments critical to increasing the supply of physicians fail to materialize, projected shortfalls of doctors will be larger than presented in this latest report.”

 

The bottom line? A physician shortage of 86,000 by 2036.

 

Locally, Martin Luther King, Jr Community Hospital had a $42 million deficit in 2023 but received a $20 million grant from LA County to remain open until the Summer of 2025.

 

The closure of 17 maternity wards in Los Angeles County over the past four years has also led to a surge in expectant mothers seeking care at MLK.

 

According to MLK CEO Dr. Elaine Batchlor, Medi-Cal doesn’t pay hospitals and doctors enough to keep up. Medi-Cal reimburses MLK about 71% of the cost of each delivery but the hospital loses more than $2 million annually on its maternity ward alone.

 

“We serve a vulnerable community that has few other options,” Batchlor said. “The financial distress of our hospital threatens that mission, but we will continue to provide the care that we can as long as we’re able.”

 

All this impacts access to care, population health and physicians and staff wellness. The shortage of physicians around MLKCH alone hovers over 1,000. LACMA supports the efforts of Dr. Batchlor and Assemblyman Mike Gipson to look at every option possible to keep MLK Jr. Community Hospital open for its patients, medical staff, nurses, and support staff.

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