McLeod Health manages strong hiring year around physician shortage, pandemic

Updated: May. 19, 2021 at 9:05 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - People looking to schedule appointments with primary care doctors and specialists in Horry County may hear a familiar message when they call around:

“We are not accepting new patients.”

McLeod Health says that has to do with a physician shortage this area started fighting long before the pandemic.

“Over 100,000 people over the next few years are coming into Horry County,” said Tiffany Ellington, Vice President of Physician Recruitment and Retention for McLeod. “That’s a huge growth for us to deal with on a community level.”

Ellington spends her days trying to bring in top-quality physicians to handle that constantly growing population.

Over the past few years, that’s become a difficult task, industry-wide.

“Fast forward past COVID and we are now looking at a huge growth in the area, and that makes it even more complicated with the physician shortage and the supply and demand we’re facing,” said Ellington.

McLeod participates in a medical staff development plan that reviews the ratios between physician supply and population.

Ellington says the study shows a huge shortage of primary care physicians and specialists.

“You’re feeling that as a patient,” she said. “We’re feeling that as a system. We are recruiting. We continue to recruit. We’ve actually had some decent success in the past few years with primary care.”

Despite the pandemic, Ellington says McLeod hired 14 new providers last year, and another 14 so far this year.

One thing she’s keeping an eye on is the impact the pandemic had on medical schools and graduating classes.

Fortunately, Ellington explained that’s an issue they won’t have to deal with while recruiting this summer.

“Physicians that are coming out of training, they’re looking at about a year to two years before they finish,” she said. “So, if that is the case, we probably won’t feel that till next summer or the following summer.”

Ellington says it’s good practice to set up primary care with a physician.

Not only just for staying healthy but also to be able to book an appointment when needed and not have to wait as long.

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