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Number Of Doctors Concerning For Senior Population

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series highlighting the aging population of Chautauqua County.

A lack of primary care doctors is concerning for area seniors, according to Janell Sluga, Lutheran Jamestown geriatric care manager.

Sluga said the doctors in the area are good, but there is a shortage.

“As a rural community, as in any rural community, we are having a problem keeping and attracting doctors,” she said. “We also have a lot of doctors aging out.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the rural population of those aged 55 to 75 in the nation is expected to grow 30 percent by 2020. It is estimated that thousands of additional primary care providers will be necessary to meet the medical needs of rural America currently, and many more than that in the future to meet the burgeoning population in those areas.

When it comes to “aging out,” or reaching retirement, the statistics show that doctors in the state are getting closer to retirement age on the whole. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges State Physician Workforce Profile, 33.4 percent of physicians in New York state are age 60 or older. The state median is 30.3 percent.

“The baby boomers … they’re all getting ready to retire,” she said. “I think health care, just like every area, is seeing what I call the ‘brain drain’ from baby boomers retiring.”

Sluga said what worries her most is who will fill the jobs left behind. She said the baby boomer population was huge, but the upcoming generation does not have the numbers to fill the positions being left behind.

“There just aren’t people to come behind us,” she said.

However, Sluga said the new ties to UPMC through UPMC Chautauqua WCA are heartening. She said it is also worth noting that specialists of every sort are available in both Erie and Buffalo.

Sluga said the opening of the Chautauqua Center is helpful. The Chautauqua Center, with locations in both Jamestown and Dunkirk, offers primary care, dental and behavioral health services.

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