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California Bills To Address Primary Care Shortage Not Enough, Say Clinics

California lawmakers approved a number of bills in the session just passed that are intended to address the state’s shortage of primary care providers. But clinics say the measures are not enough.

Photo credit: Credit Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio / Flickr

Nurse Practitioner Tina Clark examines Anastacia Casperson at the Glide Health Clinic in San Francisco.

California lawmakers approved a number of bills in the session that just passed that are intended to address the state's shortage of primary care providers. But clinics said the measures are not enough.

Governor Jerry Brown has already signed a couple of bills, others are awaiting action. Dr. Paul Phinney of the California Medical Association said CMA's bills are meant to put more doctors where they're needed.

"Keeping intact team-based, physician led care. Which basically helps to expand capacity while maintaining quality and safety," Phinney said.

Governor Brown signed a physician-supported bill to speed up the licensing of doctors wanting to practice in underserved areas. Another directs UC Riverside Medical School to assist students in applying to programs that encourage them to serve there.

But Carmela Castellano-Garcia of the California Primary Care Association said these measures will have no significant impact.

"We are going to need much more significant efforts if we are really going to make a dent in the workforce crisis," Castellano-Garcia explained.

Castellano-Garcia also said the clinics she represents serve five million patients, and they are already hard-pressed to find providers. Lawmakers had made efforts to expand the roles of mid-level providers like nurse practitioners, so that more patients could get primary care in shortage areas. But those measures stalled this year.

"If we continue to have vacancies and challenges filling physicians, it will effect our ability to see patients if we do not have the clinicians on board," Castellano-Garcia said.

One bill on the way to the Governor's desk would allow pharmacists to order some tests and manage medications, but only under a physician's supervision

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