NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Now that we’re returning to some sense of normalcy many New Mexicans are trying to catch up on their basic healthcare. But finding a primary doctor and scheduling an appointment is proving harder than many thought.
The CEO of a local family physician says he is concerned with the backlog of appointments, but points out, finding primary care quickly in New Mexico is not something new. “Pandemic or not there’s always going to be a large amount of people looking for primary care, unfortunately,” explains Andy Hsi.
For many the COVID-19 pandemic made routine check-ups less of a priority. Now that’s changing. Dr. Steve Mclaughlin is the chair for Emergency Medicine at UNMH. He shares, “What we’re seeing now is people are really trying to catch up on surgeries that they need, appointments with their doctor and that’s creating a lot of stress on the system actually.”
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People usually think if they just have a cough or common cold or minor injury they need to go to their primary doctor. But Doctor Mclaughlin says there’s another option. “I think if you are seeking care for things that you think your primary care physician is best to take care of but they can’t get you seen in a timely fashion, then often your local urgent care is a good place to go.”
Another impact from the pandemic is that many providers shut down forcing patients to seek medical treatment from different doctors. People can reach out to their insurance providers to help in their search. “A lot of insurance reps would try to keep their ear to the ground and find out if there are any primary care doctors in their network that would be accepting, they’re going to do their best to direct their patients,” said Hsi.
Hsi continues to say unfortunately the scarcity of primary care appointments won’t go away any time soon. “As I understand it…there’s insufficient federal funding I think in a lot of areas. Ultimately it’s on a federal level there’s only so much that could be done.”
Especially when there’s a shortage of residency programs to get more doctors into New Mexico. “It’s a problem that has been there for a long time and it’s going to continue to get worse regardless of the pandemic, I think there’s a lot of factors at play including just how many providers there are,” explains Hsi.
Primary care facilities are encouraging people to stay open-minded and try other physicians if they are not having any luck getting an appointment. Doctors say there could be another uptick of COVID cases in the coming months and are still encouraging people to get their COVID vaccine and booster shots.