Doctor shortage impacts poor NYC neighborhoods

February 9, 2011 3:05:06 PM PST
A shortage of doctors is hurting some of New York City's poorest neighborhoods.

Elisha Rivers, 14, finally had his annual physical exam today. No easy task, says older sister Ashley, who made the appointment at the always busy Brownsville Multi-Service Family Health Center.

"You better get here first. And make sure you be served first, cause if you don't, you got to wait," Ashley said.

Brownsville is one of several Brooklyn communities plagued with a shortage of doctors, according to an annual state education department report.

Dr. Adam Aponte explained why a lot of doctors just don't want to work in those communities.

"When you are taking care of a lot of patients in these communities they tend to be very, very sick. So you are spending a lot of time with these patients. And let's be practical and honest, the compensation is very different," Dr. Aponte said.

Dr. Aponte, who grew up in East Harlem, says the physician shortages are almost always located in low-income, minority communities like the Mott Haven, Soundview and Hunts Point sections of the Bronx.

Experts say it's critical to educate future doctors from these areas and bring them back to serve their communities.

"In other countries of the world, primary care is the focus. Here the focus is somewhat contorted because of the money and having to pay back student loans," Harvey Lawrence of Brownsville Multi-Service Family Health Center said.

Many of the doctors and nurses working in facilities listed in this annual report have qualified for scholarships or loan forgiveness programs - two key incentives designed to attract healthcare providers to the areas that need them most.