Newsletter: Hospitals, medical groups start to worry about skills of older doctors
Dr. Paul Speckart conducts a physical evaluation of one of his patients. Megan Wood/inewsource

Newsletter: Hospitals, medical groups start to worry about skills of older doctors

Every weekday at the crack of dawn and usually on weekends too, Dr. Paul Speckart backs his dark blue 1986 Volvo down his Mission Hills driveway, carefully avoiding the gateposts.

The percentage of doctors who continue practicing beyond the usual retirement age has quadrupled since the mid 1970s. Now, hospital panels and medical groups are asking if patients would be safer if physicians are screened for physical and mental competencies after they reach a certain age.

He drives 18 blocks to Scripps Mercy Hospital in Hillcrest to examine his patients treated there, and writes orders for their drugs or tests.

Around 7 a.m., he goes to the Bankers Hill practice he shares with his four partners to see an additional 20 or so patients. Then at 6 p.m., he’s back in the Volvo to make hospital rounds again, lucky to make it home by 8:30. On Saturdays he often makes house calls and visits nursing homes.

Speckart turned 75 in late June, a time when many doctors might retire. But after nearly four decades of this routine, the internist and endocrine specialist has no plan to call it quits. He keeps up with relevant journals, maintains his board certifications and takes required courses. His patients assure him they still have high confidence in his skills, he said.

“At some point, I’m going to have to get thrown out of the office,” he quipped. Besides, with the shortage of new doctors choosing primary care, he asked, “Who would be left to see my patients?” Younger doctors don’t want to work as hard as those in his generation, he said.

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