I-TEAM: Primary care doctor shortage affecting Connecticut

If you’re having a hard time finding a primary care physician, you aren’t alone.
Published: Nov. 15, 2022 at 11:32 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 16, 2022 at 10:23 AM EST
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(WFSB) - If you’re having a hard time finding a primary care physician, you aren’t alone.

The lack of primary care docs across the country and in Connecticut, is leaving patients exhausted.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the US could be short 48,000 primary care physicians by 2034.

The I-Team takes a look at why this is happening.


It’s taken Rebecca Martin of New Hartford, two years to find a doctor after hers retired. She had been with him for 30 years.

“I really didn’t think it would be difficult, I just thought I’d get some referrals, call up primary care,” says Martin. “Every single doctor I called said we’re not taking any new patients.”

Jeffrey Forlastro of New Milford says he’s spent several hours each week over the last 5 months, searching for a new doc. His doctor of 46 years retired as well.

“Probably 8-10 hours, just looking through websites, giving phone calls, sending email requests,” says Forlastro. “It’s been tough. Honestly I’ve kind of given up on it.”

Jenn Yocca of Wallingford can’t find open appointments that aren’t months away. Her insurance changed so she was forced to find a new PCP.

“When you find somebody who says they’re taking new patients, you call to get in, it’s a 3 month wait if it’s something urgent and it’s close to a year for a physical,” says Yocca.

Jen Marshall of Canaan had never seen a PCP, always going to urgent care. When her ankles started swelling up daily, she was referred to a primary care provider in Litchfield County. The woman never followed up with her.

“That didn’t sit well with me,” says Marshall.

She says she was surprised to hear from the hospital instead. Turns out, Marshall had a heart condition that required urgent surgery.

“I have not heard from my primary care doctor at all. It’s been kind of crazy. I’m on the hunt for a new one at this point,” says Marshall.


Stories like these are becoming all too common in Connecticut.

“It’s a difficult situation we’re dealing with,” says Doctor Khuram Ghumman.

Here in CT, we have nearly 3,900 primary care doctors, around 108 doctors for every 100,000 people. That’s the tenth highest rate in the country.

But Doctor Ghumman, who is with the CT Medical Society, says we could use 10-15% more PCP’s to prepare for the future in the Nutmeg State.

“The shortage of primary care physicians in the country, it’s staggering,” says Doctor Ghumman.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the US could be short 48,000 primary care physicians by 2034.

The number is staggering, medical professionals say, for a number of reasons.


As more primary care doctors retire, fewer are entering the field.

“About two out of 5 practicing physicians today are over 65,” says Doctor Ghumman.

The healthcare community is seeing a trend toward early retirement as well.

“It’s a very challenging field. The nature of primary care as the sort of generalist who deals with all of the problems a patient may have historically has been very important,” Doctor David Simon, CEO of Physicians Alliance of CT, a Multi-Specialty Group.

Doctor David Simon says that’s because the work required has doubled over the years.

“About the same amount of time they actually spend with the patients they have to spend almost twice that just documenting and taking care of all the things that are not directly related to patient care, whether it’s authorizations, medications, refills, etc., we go through a whole litany of things,” says Doctor Simon.

Put into perspective, Doctor Rebecca Andrews says most primary care doctors care for about 1600-2000 patients at any given time.

Outside of just the office visits, the additional work that needs to be done for each patient is equal to about 13 hours of extra work each day.

“For every hour of patient care I provide face to face, I have 2 hours of paperwork at home,” says Andrews.

For all they’re expected to do, primary care physicians are paid less than specialists.

The average PCP in CT makes more than $269,000. The average surgical specialist: $600,000 almost 3x as much.

They’re also paid less in reimbursement rates by insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid.

All of these factors make primary care less attractive to medical students.


Fixing the issue isn’t easy, but CT is trying.

When talking about enticing medical students, UConn and Quinnipiac University have programs that focus and encourage primary care study within their Schools of Medicine.

“It’s important to get them exposed early,” says Doctor Ghumman.

Doctor Ghumman says the federal government should also fund and create more training programs, as well as increase reimbursements, although that could raise state taxes.

To fight burnout, Doctor Simon says a current efficiency project happening in the state, is looking at how to take work off the PCP.

It’s being conducted by PACT in partnership with Hartford Healthcare.

“Creating a much more team approach to the care of these patients so the primary care provider is freed up to do what they actually specialized to do, which is take care of the patients,” says Doctor Simon.

When asked whether recent healthcare mergers have had an effect, Doctor Simon says he doesn’t believe so.

“I don’t think that’s been, in any way, playing a role in less providers available. It certainly makes it challenging in terms of, again, the number of patients you have to see, the number of patients you have to take care of new systems have different ways of how they manage patients, I’m sure different electronic records,” says Doctor Simon. “Those transitions can be very difficult at times. But once they’re in, I don’t think that’s really a major issue.”

For example, he says PACT is an independent group, but partners with Hartford Healthcare. They’ve actually added providers since the partnership began.

“We have 23 locations throughout Greater New Haven, those that do primary care, all have added providers so that we can take patients at every one of those locations today. That wasn’t the case a couple of years ago,” says Doctor Simon.


As for what you can do, Doctor Simon says think about working with Advanced Practice Registered Nurses and Physicians’ Assistants instead.

They still work hand in hand with physicians, and you’ll have an easier time scheduling with them.

“You’re talking about broadening the number of providers if you’re willing to see an ARPN or PA.

It’s something Rebecca Martin decided to do, ending her two-year search.

“I’ll tell you; I was surprised. She was very knowledgeable, very good,” says Rebecca Martin. “She took a lot of time with me whereas the other doctors who were actually doctors were boom boom boom.”


Wednesday at 5:30 PM, join us for an inside look at the primary care student training programs at UConn and Quinnipiac University.