Other area counties are expected to have an influx of new patients when the new insurance regulations kick in. In fact, the AP reports that Clay, Fayette and Shelby counties are among a number of central and southern Illinois counties facing a "severe" shortfall of primary care physicians. However, medical officials in some of those areas claim otherwise.
An executive at Clay County Hospital in charge of the hospital's medical clinic said her clinic is fully staffed.
Teresa Warfel, the hospital's director of rehabilitation and public services, said her clinic boasts five physicians and five nurse practitioners at locations in Flora and Louisville. Moreover, she said, the clinic is always recruiting new help in case one of those professionals decides to move on.
"You are always recruiting because of the time it takes to bring somebody on-board," Warfel said. "The on-board process is time-consuming.
"Once you are short-handed, it takes a long time to get the open position filled," she said. "You can flip from being fully staffed to under staffed in a heartbeat."
Warfel said one thing Clay County Hospital has tried to do is make the work-life balance more palatable for doctors.
"Doctors today don't want to be out working 24-7, so we instituted a program in which our primary care doctors are on call for one week at a time. Before, they were on-call all the time. Now it's seven weeks a year."
Paula Brodie, spokeswoman for the Southern Illinois Health Care Foundation, which operates clinics in Effingham, Vandalia and Greenup, said her group's focus is on educating the general public about various provisions of the Affordable Care Act,
"We want to make sure they can access the (insurance) marketplace, as well as access the best plan for their families," Brodie said.
While Brodie admitted the Affordable Care Act has created a situation where there are "so many unknowns right now," she said her group is confident that it can maintain an optimal level of providers, whether they be physicians or mid-level professionals.
"We are confident we will not experience a shortage of providers," she said.
Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or firstname.lastname@example.org.