Thousands of people in Rochester have some form of arthritis, however, if you need to see a specialist for the pain be prepared to wait; in some cases up to six months.
The latest numbers show there's approximately 14 rheumatologists in our area and only four of them are full time rheumatologists. The Monroe County Medical Society says
“My hands swelled up really bad. I noticed I was getting really tired a lot you know, more than usual,” says Cindy Nau of Chili who is one of the thousands of people in the Greater Rochester area who lives with arthritis.
Cindy lives with a painful form of the disease called Rheumatoid Arthritis or “RA”. She was seen by a rheumatologist about two months after her initial diagnosis.
“I've heard it's really bad and I was really lucky here,” says Nau.
“In this community, in recent past, it's taken up to six months to see someone,” says Dr. Doug Jones, a long-standing rheumatologist in the
Jones works for
“Half my practice is rheumatology, half my practice is allergy so I really only constitute half a rheumatologist,” says Dr. Jones, “the major difficulty is now that with all our research, especially with Rheumatoid Arthritis specifically, from initial diagnosis to six months out, you do irreversible damage. Once you've missed that window, it may be impossible to shut the disease down.”
With wait times of two months to six months for a rheumatologist in
“Although there are quite a few names in the phone book, if you add up all the practicing rheumatologist in the City, there's probably 12 to 14 people and that's low compared to the numbers we would need to serve the population of about a million people,” says Jones.
So why is this happening? Fewer rheumatologists are being trained and some training programs have closed due to federal funding cuts. There is also low reimbursement for this specialty in
“We are probably reimbursed 30 to 50 percent less than other areas,” says Jones, “they also have a lot less paperwork, HMOs and state regulation.”
News 8 Now has learned that as of this year, Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield has raised the reimbursement rate by 3.7 % for these specialties. Slowly, there are more rheumatologists coming to our area. Dr. Jones's practice actually took on new doctors this year.
“We're doing much better in our practice because we've been fortunate enough to recruit two very good people recently,” says Jones.