Reducing Physician Shortages in Rural New York
Special Projects Fund
September 30, 2021
Primary care is often a patient’s first point of contact with the health care system, and research shows that increased access is associated with fewer hospital visits, emergency department visits, and surgeries.
However, New York State’s rural regions have limited access to primary care and, as a result, experience poorer health outcomes. The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has designated Cayuga County and surrounding communities as a Health Professional Shortage Area for primary, mental health, and dental care. It faces a shortage of primary care physicians to treat nearly 80,000 residents, and most of the region’s full-time family physicians have patient loads of 2,000 to 3,000 patients. The existing primary care physician workforce is also aging, with almost half either reducing hours or retiring and no succession plan in place to fill this impending service void. In 2021, NYHealth awarded Auburn Community Hospital (ACH) a grant to support the launch of a novel rural residency program to address physician shortages and improve health care access for rural residents in Central New York.
Under this grant, ACH will partner with the State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical University to leverage federal funds and establish the Rural Training Track in Family Medicine Residency Program. SUNY Upstate Medical University has received a HRSA grant in support of this work, but these funds do not cover all the planning costs at the onset of the project. NYHealth funds will help ACH and SUNY Upstate Medical University launch the program, which aims to increase distribution of primary care physicians, provide specialized training to medical residents, and increase the number of providers and services at hospitals. ACH will recruit and hire a project site director and project coordinator to train faculty and staff; develop residency curricula and rotation schedules; ensure curriculum elements are in place; pursue accreditation; and oversee capital improvements for clinic sites. ACH will operate the residency program, opening with the inaugural class in 2023–24, and will provide an immersive training experience on issues relevant to rural communities such as telehealth utilization and how to combat the opioid crisis and addiction. Upon completion of this residency, graduates will be motivated to remain in the area or relocate to other rural regions in New York State.