CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — While the federal health overhaul law has raised concerns about a national shortage of primary care doctors, the situation appears less severe in New Hampshire than in many other states, according to figures from the Association of American Medical Colleges.
The association's 2011 report counted 1,308 primary care physicians in New Hampshire, which amounts to a rate of nearly 99 per 100,000 residents, the fifth highest in the country. But there are significant trouble spots, said Lisa Bujno, chief of the state Bureau of Public Health Systems.
Recruiting and retaining primary care physicians is particularly difficult throughout the North Country and in Manchester, she said.
"There's a whole lot of doctors there, but there's a whole lot of population there, too, and whether there are enough to take care of the needs of folks who are covered by Medicaid or are uninsured is a big question," she said.
New Hampshire has several programs that address the health care workforce, include a loan repayment program for those who work in underserved areas. The state also funds the New Hampshire Recruitment Center, which is run by Bi-state Primary Care and tracks health industry job openings, conducts outreach and helps communities develop their own recruitment initiatives.
The recruitment center grew out of a wider public-private project in the mid-1990s to increase the state's recruitment of primary care providers. And unlike some other states, New Hampshire long ago expanded the authority of nurse practitioners to help handle the workload, she said.
"With the Affordable Care Act, the health care system really is transforming, so it's going to be important to take advantage of other kinds of workforce beyond physicians and make sure that every type of health care professional is contributing to the system," she said.