Doctors are starting to flee Philadelphia's overstaffed market, prodded by the financial collapse of Allegheny Health, Education and Research Foundation.
Once the most aggressive buyer of physician practices in Philadelphia, AHERF filed for bankruptcy last month for its eight hospitals, its medical school and its physician practice arm, which directly employs 365 doctors there (July 27, p. 2).
Even before the ultimate catalyst of Chapter 11, many AHERF doctors were eyeing greener pastures because of falling pay and the reality of more of the same.
Now the resumes of many of Philadelphia's roughly 7,200 doctors are flooding the offices of headhunters throughout the nation. And although some doctors may be only window shopping, recruiters say as many as 20% to 25% of those now testing the waters may ultimately leave town.
Already several recruiters have placed AHERF doctors in jobs elsewhere. But because changing jobs can take six to nine months, only time will tell the ultimate effect.
Cejka & Co., for instance, has had recent inquiries from about 100 Allegheny doctors, said Kathy Jordan, a recruiter with the St. Louis firm. Already Jordan has placed several doctors in rural Pennsylvania and in a small city in the Midwest.
It's a similar story at Snelling Search, another national recruiting firm.
"I think we'll see a major exodus out of the Philly market," said Gil Johnson, a vice president responsible for healthcare in Snelling's Monroe, La., office. His firm has been receiving 15 to 20 calls and resumes a week from Philadelphia-area doctors. More typically, recruiters "invade physicians' privacy" to pitch job options, Johnson said.
Those who have landed jobs saw trouble brewing six months ago, Johnson said. Now lots of other doctors, not just those from AHERF, are getting serious, too.
Many AHERF refugees are seeking jobs close to home, but the persistent physician glut in Philadelphia hurts their chances.
Philadelphia has more than 259 physicians per 100,000 population, compared with a national average of 189 per 100,000 population, according to 1993 data in the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care (See chart).
David Shulkin, M.D., chief medical officer at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, said he has received dozens of unsolicited resumes from doctors. Of the AHERF doctors Shulkin knows, "at least half are considering out-of-town options" because of the local abundance of physicians, he said.