The budget Gov. Nathan Deal signed Monday contains $1.2 million for the Regents to distribute to hospitals with the goal of creating 400 residencies, the supervision of newly graduated physicians. Deal said he intends to add money in future years to keep the program going.
It will help with the start-up costs of the programs, such as hiring administrators and the paperwork for the facilities to earn accreditation as teaching hospitals. Start up usually takes three to four years. Then, federal Medicare funding will begin to cover much of the cost of running the programs as residents begin treating Medicare patients.
Dr. Ricardo Azziz, the president of Georgia Health Sciences University, said those starting such programs should realize they can be costly to maintain.
“This will not fund the residency programs. I need to be clear,” Azziz said. “This is seeding the initial period to get hospitals over the hump, which is the dry period of no reimbursement.”
Medicare will only fund new residencies at hospitals, not additional ones at facilities that already have some residents. That has the state scrambling to help convince administrators to make the long-term financial commitment to become a teaching hospital and to accept the ongoing costs.
Under the guidelines approved Tuesday, the grants will go to only half the costs.
Also, the residency programs must be geared toward specialties most in need around the state, according to Dr. Shelley Nuss, the associate dean for graduate medical education at the university’s Athens campus.
“These programs that we are developing must mirror the crisis areas that we are in in the state of Georgia, which is primarily primary care and general surgery,” she said.
A hospital may add emergency medicine along with one of the two main specialties, she said.