LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – It’s being called a primary care crisis: A shortage of family doctors in Michigan.

What’s being done to fix the problem?

Family medicine week is underway in Michigan, and one of the main topics being discussed is the shortage of primary care doctors. Doctors discussed with us which communities are being impacted, and how the state plans to address the shortage.

Jennifer Aloff of Midland Family Physicians stated “If we don’t address the shortage that we’re experiencing here in Michigan, um it’s going to get worse. We know that currently, there are Three-million Michigan residents who don’t have access to primary care.”

But more state funding for the my-doc program would expand the number of residency programs, helping keep young doctors in the state.

Another program could benefit from the investment.

David Lick, the program director, vice chair of education, and professor at the Department of Family Medicine at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine said, “The Michigan state loan repayment program. And this program helps employers to recruit and then retain primary care physicians in underserved areas. And they do this by helping to reduce their medical school debt.”

State funding can go a long way for these programs, especially where it’s needed most: Inner cities.
And mental health access would be included. Karlene Ketola is the executive officer at the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians. She focuses on getting medical students to pursue family practice.

Ketola said, “As we look at those creative solutions, and engaging with physicians that practice in those rural communities, to see and to mentor and hopefully grow the next generation of family physicians in those areas.”

And data shows that people who see their doctor regularly are more healthy and live longer.

Aloff added, “When I first started 20 years ago in my practice, I’d look at my schedule and say what do I get to do today? And now I look at my schedule and I say who do I get to see today? And that’s really what it’s about in primary care. “It’s knowing our patients, knowing their families, building those long-term relationships. And going on that health journey with our patients and their families.”

Now, experts say the main reason for the shortage has to do with salaries. Primary physicians tend to make less money than other doctors. This new state funding could help fix that.