Clinic battles urologist shortage

FAIRMONT – Recruiting a urologist isn’t an easy task, particularly for a rural site like Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont, but it’s not alone.

Last month, the local medical center lost its urologist, Dr. Christopher Gran, who had been with the site for about five years when he turned in his resignation.

“We’ve got an RN calling and touching base with each of his patients, to make sure of their continuity of care,” said Bob Bartingale, administrator of the Fairmont site.

The problem in finding a full-time replacement for Gran comes down to supply and demand, according to Bartingale: “There aren’t enough physicians going into urological fellowships to meet the demand right now. It’s not a Fairmont issue; it’s not a Mankato issue; it’s a nationwide shortage.”

According to findings by Dr. Raj S. Pruthi, lead author of a 2013 study on the shortage of urologists in the United States, the number of physicians specializing in diseases of the urinary tract system and male reproductive organs has been on the decline since 2009.

His research has shown nearly half of urologists practicing today are 55 or older, and there simply aren’t enough new urologists entering the field to offset the coming retirements. Pruthi predicts a 29 percent reduction in the number of urologists by 2025, even as the demand for urology services from aging Americans increases.

A plan is in place by Mayo to continue providing local urological services.

Dr. Joe Lee and physician assistant Becky Bailey will take turns visiting the Fairmont site once a week. Both are based out of Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato.

Lee, a urologist, will be in Fairmont the first and third Friday of each month, while Bailey will be available the second and fourth Tuesday each month.

“Dr. Gran had a very busy practice, a full-time practice,” Bartingale said. “Urologists are very, very hard to find, quite honestly, so we’re hoping many of his patients can be seen by primary care providers, as we continue searching for additional [visiting] urologists.”

Bartingale said the Fairmont location is fortunate to be affiliated with Mayo: “We can leverage their resources when we have a shortage.”