NEWS

Surgical Workforce Shortages in Rural Areas

  • time: 2016-07-06 11:01:39
  • hit: 1702
By: Patrick V. Bailey, MD, FACS
This month I write about one of the College’s current advocacy efforts directed at ensuring an adequate surgical workforce in underserved and rural areas. Evidence indicates a current and growing shortage of surgeons available to serve the needs of populations in certain parts of the country. A shortage of general surgeons is a clear component to the crisis in health care workforce. Accordingly, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) is urging policy makers to recognize that only surgeons are uniquely qualified to provide certain necessary, lifesaving procedures, which other health professionals are neither trained nor competent to provide.
To determine where these areas of shortage are located and where access to surgical care is thus potentially a challenge, the ACS is strongly supporting the efforts of Representatives Larry Bucshon, MD, FACS (R-Ind.) and Ami Bera, MD (D-Calif.) who recently introduced H.R. 4959, the Ensuring Access to General Surgery Act of 2016. This legislation serves to direct the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to conduct a study on the designation of surgical Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA).
A variety of federal programs use the HPSA designation to improve access to health care by focusing aid and assistance on specific geographic areas and populations with the greatest unmet needs. The division of HHS known as the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has developed criteria used to determine whether certain geographic areas, population groups, or facilities may be designated as a HPSA. HPSA designation may be applied to urban or rural geographic areas, specific population groups, medical provider groups, or other public health care facilities. Currently, HRSA limits HPSA designations to shortages in primary care services, dental services, or mental health services.
HRSA has never designated an entity as a HPSA purely based upon a shortage of surgical services. In light of the available evidence relative to the shortage of surgical providers in certain parts of the country, ACS believes that research is necessary to determine exactly what constitutes a surgical shortage area, e.g., establish definitional criteria, with subsequent application of those criteria to determine where areas so defined are located. Such would provide HRSA with a valuable tool to utilize in efforts directed at increasing patient access to surgical care.  Cautery unit. Ultimately, offering incentives to surgeons to locate or remain in HPSA communities could become critical in guaranteeing all Medicare beneficiaries, regardless of geographic location, have access to quality surgical care. Determining what constitutes a surgical shortage area will serve to help HRSA to appropriately focus its resources. Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery. 
Accordingly, we need your help and urge you to take action today. Orthopedic. 
Using the information below, please call your representatives today and urge them to join their colleagues and cosponsor H.R. 4959, the Ensuring Access to General Surgery Act of 2016.

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