An estimated 30 million Americans are expected to gain health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the sizable workforce needed to meet the increased demand is not available.
The health care workforce here is already facing a shortfall of health professionals. It’s difficult to make an appointment with a physician and establish a primary care relationship. Those who have already selected a primary care physician are having difficulty making appointments less than six or seven weeks out.
In Nye County alone, numbers from the state indicate an increase of over 3,800 people who are eligible for Medicaid from June 2013 to June 2014 and as more people sign up for reduced premiums through Nevada Healthlink. The demand has nowhere to go but up.
Healthcare Partners is the largest service provider here and vice president of operations Jeremy Cox said the company is aware of the problem and is addressing it.
“We started in 2010 with seven specialists in Pahrump. The medical group now offers 17 specialists providers. Our most recent physician specializes in oncology. Dr. Araujo comes to Pahrump once per week.”
Each of Healthcare Partners four offices has extended its hours, and instead of only being in Pahrump from their Las Vegas offices once or twice per month, the specialists have added additional days of service.
Cox said those in clinic managerial positions and the physicians meet regularly to address concerns. “It’s not just here,” Cox said. “The problem is nationwide.”
He said the group is constantly recruiting new physicians and specialists to handle the increasing caseload. “We saw the need coming three years ago and we have been making plans.”
Cox said the company is in the design phase of building a new facility here, but declined to give its location. “We filed an application but failed to break ground on the project before the deadline.
“Our goal is to consolidate our resources and design the facility to accommodate what we need in terms of medical care and equipment.” He indicated it was possible to have a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanner installed here at some point.
PET scanners use a radioactive substance called a tracer to look for disease in the body.
He said the plans have been on the drawing board for over a year. “We want to improve accessibility. We work on a total-care model. It takes time to see a patient and we want to have enough time allotted to give quality care and address all the patients’ needs.
Healthcare Partners’ increased caseload has created jobs for those qualified as medical PBX operators, knowledge of the integrated systems used to keep patient records, and set appointments. They also hire people who have patient advocate experience or have the ability to be a liaison between the patient and the physicians group.