Decreasing the Field Strength of the National Health Service Corps: Will Access to Care Suffer?


To study the effect that the decline in physicians in the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) pipeline will have on access to care for patients at sites to which NHSC physicians are assigned, a survey was sent to all NHSC physicians completing their obligated service in 1989. Seventy-four (74) percent of the respondents believed that the decreased number of NHSC doctors in the pipeline would threaten the existence of their site and 52 percent reported that no doctors or clinic sites would be able to provide free or subsidized care if their NHSC site were forced to close. Of the physicians who stated that their NHSC patients would be able to find an alternative source of care, the most commonly cited (33 percent) alternative was the local hospital emergency room. We conclude that access to care for patients at NHSC sites will be seriously impaired by the decline in physicians in the NHSC pipeline.