Prescription sought to keep young physicians in Pa.

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    Doctors are calling for improved strategies to keep new physicians in Pennsylvania.

    They’re urging state lawmakers to increase funding for a program that provides residency slots to physicians trained in the commonwealth who agree to work in rural and underserved areas.

    States are in a competition of sorts for these recent graduates, said Dr. Bruce MacLeod, president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society.

    “There are signals that the new physicians who are graduating are looking to practice in other states,” he said. “Even though we’re in good shape now, we have to make sure we replace those physicians who are retiring or planning to retire by keeping up with the new and impending health care demand.”

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    Doctors say medical school students are already under pressure to opt for specialized medicine over primary care to try to make the kind of money they’ll need to repay large student loans.

    Boosting funds for the state’s debt-relief program for primary care physicians could keep in-state medical students from leaving the commonwealth because similar types of programs elsewhere offer higher pay, said Hans Zuckerman, a student at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

    “They offer those types of salaries because no one really wants to go to those areas,” Zuckerman said. “So you don’t have to necessarily match that. We just need to provide people with enough incentive that they’ll stay here within Pennsylvania without really considering some of those higher level offers.”

    Implementation of the federal health care law will create greater demand for primary care, resulting in longer waits to see doctors unless the state acts to retain them, MacLeod said.

    An aide with the state Department of Health estimates another $1 million in state funding could create 24 new loan repayment slots and 10 new residency slots for such doctors.

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