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The impact of the health care worker shortage in Northeast Ohio

Wait times are on the rise because of shortage of specialists.

CLEVELAND — It's no secret there is a serious shortage of health care workers in the U.S. 

Northeast Ohio hospitals have thousands of openings. But it's not an easy fix. 

Nursing school enrollment is down nearly 10%, but the opposite is true at medical schools, where they saw an 18% rise in applicants, including historical increases in minority applicants, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

A recent conference sponsored by Case Western Reserve University attracted dozens of minority students who have interest in medical careers.

Even Congress got involved with the Resident Physician Shortage Act to boost the number of physicians in Medicare supported residency programs. 

But it will take years for them to fill the needed specialties. One is radiology.

According to the American College of Radiology, nearly 21,000 radiologists are in practice, 82% are over age 45 and 53% are over 55 and closer to retirement.  

Why is this a concern?

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a good time for women to schedule their routine mammogram. But for those who get called back for a more in-depth diagnostic mammogram, they may be shocked to find it may take weeks to get an appointment.  

Cleveland Clinic and other hospitals are dealing with a significant shortage of breast radiologists, doctors who read those mammograms.

In a statement, Cleveland Clinic said:

"Providing timely and appropriate care to our patients is a priority. Hospitals across the country are facing an unprecedented workforce shortage, including in the area of breast radiology. Because we have many mammogram locations across our health system, wait times vary, with some locations having shorter wait times than others."

Meaning patients may have to be flexible and drive a little further to another location to get an appointment sooner. Which may not be easy for some. 

It's just one example of the seriousness of the health care worker shortage, but also emphasizes the need for women to make those mammogram appointments as soon as they are due.  Because the earlier cancer is found, the better the chances for successful treatment.

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