The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

February 13, 2013

Conneaut Medical Center anxious to recruit doctors

UH programs created to entice, retain talented MDs

Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — Administrators at UH Conneaut Medical Center has some competition — the rest of the country — in their effort to replace two doctors who left their practices last year.

Family physicians, the doctors CMC lost to retirement and resignation last year and the kind patients want, are an endangered species, said Robert David, president of UH’s Conneaut and Geneva medical centers. Today’s young doctors are eschewing family medicine in favor of a medical specialty that pays more, he said. Others want to deal with patients in offices, not hospitals, while some gravitate to larger cities for lifestyle reasons, David said.

The result? Small, relatively isolated towns like Conneaut have a tougher time filling vacancies, David said.

“People don’t know how difficult it is to recruit,” he said in an interview last week.

But that doesn’t mean CMC has given up the fight. The hospital uses national recruiting firms to help the search, and David regularly networks with people to oversee physician residency programs.

Also, UH is aware of Conneaut’s plight and is throwing it considerable resources into the hunt. “People at the highest levels of UH know our need and support us,” David said.

Doctors will be in even more demand once the Affordable Care Act takes full effect next year, David said. Experts estimate there will be a need for 150,000 doctors come 2015, climbing to 200,000 in 2020, to handle the extra people that will be seeking health care, he said.

Anticipating the shortfall, CMC has launched a handful of programs to lure medical talent to northeast Ashtabula County, David said. A residency program at the Conneaut and Geneva centers, begun in July, brings newly-minted doctors to the local hospitals for 30-day periods, he said. They receive additional training from staff and deal with patients, David said.

“They develop a collegial relationship with physicians and patients,” he said.

Administrators also hope the residents grow fond enough of the area during their month-long stay to put down roots, career-wise. So far, 23 doctors have participated in the Conneaut/Geneva residency program, and several have expressed interest in the hospitals, David said.

Ashtabula County and its two UH hospitals have plenty to offer young doctors, David said. The region is “a wonderful place to raise a family,” he said, while the two medical centers offer excellent patient care and a terrific group of employees.

“We have a great group of employees our physicians work with every day,” David said.

The Conneaut Medical Center is not devoid of doctors. On staff today are five internal medicine/family practice physicians and one nurse practitioner, David said. However, it’s the nature of people to pick and choose their doctor, he said.

“There’s a demand for extra doctors,” David said. “People say they want a choice of physicians.”

Meanwhile, CMC continues its quest to find a doctor that meshes well with the community, and is hopeful new doctors will arrive this year, David said.

“We’re cautiously optimistic we will sign a physician,” he said. “We’re committed to seeing it through. It won’t be for lack of effort.”