SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Going to the doctor in Puerto Rico has for years often meant getting in line. Now, it might mean getting on a plane.
A medical exodus is taking place in the Caribbean territory as doctors and nurses flee for the U.S. mainland, seeking higher salaries and better reimbursement from insurers. Many of their patients, frustrated by long waits and a scarcity of specialists, are finding they have no choice but to follow them off the island.
In the last five years, the number of doctors in Puerto Rico has dropped by 13 percent, from 11,397 to 9,950, according to the island’s Medical Licensing and Studies Board. The biggest losses are primary care physicians and specialists within a specialty, such as thoracic oncologists.