NJ hospitals making changes to residency programs ahead of expected doctor shortage


A nationwide doctor shortage is poised to hit New Jersey hard and that's prompting lawmakers to take action.

Despite an increase in medical school enrollments, New Jersey is expected to need nearly 3,000 doctors by 2020.

Because programs are partially funded by Medicare, the number of resident physicians hospitals can have was capped by the federal government in 1996.

During a news conference in Bergen County on Monday, state and federal lawmakers announced new legislation that will help ease the shortage and bring doctors back to the garden state.

"We face steep competition from the Philadelphia and New York job markets…we need more funding for training programs to meet the demands of new residents," said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ.

Local hospitals say they are actively making changes to their residency programs to help alleviate the physician shortage, particularly in Jersey.

"Whenever we try to recruit physicians or residents we always give a preference to people who are much more likely to stay in our general area," said Dr. Jeffery Jahre, of St. Luke's Health network, which operates a campus in Phillipsburg, NJ.

Jahre says raising the cap on the number of residents a hospital can have will help.

"We get a certain amount of payment from the government for our residency slots. Most of these residency slots they are capped at a certain maximum. If you exceed that max you have to pay for those residents totally yourself. It's much easier if you have partial support or full support from the federal government," Jahre said.

Jahre says St. Luke's has plans to double its residency program by 2024. Dr. Jahre says some of that already has begun at the Anderson campus, located just a few miles from the New Jersey border.