So far, five entities are in the process of creating local programs by hiring faculty and preparing to earn accreditation. Three more hospitals are close to committing to developing their own programs, and another four are beginning to consider it.
If all come on board, they could exceed the target.
The goal is to have more opportunities for newly graduated physicians at the expanded Georgia Regents University in Augusta and at the campus shared with the University of Georgia in Athens. Doctors are more likely to settle down near hospitals where they spend their residency, so state leaders hope to reduce Georgia’s physician shortage by offering additional residency opportunities.
Gov. Nathan Deal convinced the General Assembly to commit $1.2 million, which the regents granted to the first batch of entities as a match to what they’re investing on their own in setup costs. Athens Regional Medical Center has gotten $620,000. St. Marys Health Care System in Athens got $250,000. A consortium of five Southwest Georgia hospitals working together got $750,000, and Gwinnett Medical Center got $200,000.
Tuesday, the regents agreed to issue the remaining $80,000 to Gwinnett Medical because it is the furthest along, according to Dr. Shelly Nuss, associate dean for graduate medical education at Georgia Regents University.
The state money only goes for the upfront expense of hiring faculty, building on-site classrooms and the administrative requirements of getting accredited, which typically takes two or three years. Once residents are on board, the hospitals get reimbursement from Medicaid for much of the costs.
Regent Neil Pruitt asked how federal sequestration would affect the residency program.
Nuss said Medicaid is cutting its spending by 2 percent, but since these hospitals have never had residents, they won’t be experiencing any change.
“We’ll prepare the budgets based on what we believe the current budget will be,” she said.