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Thursday, April 21, 2011 - 1:13pm

Regents Want More Medical Residencies

Georgia’s University System wants more doctors to complete their residencies in the state.

Meeting this week, a Board of Regents committee said the state needs to entice more hospitals to offer residency training for newly graduated doctors.

Right now, the state does not have enough slots in its medical residency programs for students completing medical school. So hundreds of would-be doctors have to go outside Georgia to get the training they need. And then they’re much less likely to come back and practice in Georgia, where there is already a shortage of doctors.

“There has been a lot of growth in medical school capacity. There’s been some growth in residencies, but nowhere near the same level,” said Ben Robinson, executive director of the Center for Health Workforce Planning and Analysis at Georgia Health Sciences University.

“We’re already a little out of whack [and] that could get a lot worse if we don’t make the investment that we need in the entire medical education system, looking at both the undergraduate, the medical school enrollments, and graduate and residency programs.”

Robinson said paying for residency programs is one of the big barriers for hospitals.

“The biggest funder for residencies is Medicare,” he said. “You don’t get your first dime in Medicare money until about two or three years after you start putting your program together. So there’s a long delay period when it’s a lot of sunk costs.”

The Regents committee is considering a plan that would ask the state to offset some of those costs to draw more hospitals into the residency business.

Robinson said Georgia needs more than 300 new residency spots to meet the regional average, based on our population, and it needs about 1,500 spaces to meet the national average.