Sequestration will take a grave toll

 

A Medical College of Georgia headline showing up across the world in recent weeks describes a new biomarker discovered here that can be an early red flag for hospitalized children and adults that their kidneys are injured and in trouble.

This key early sign could help avoid the chronic damage and even kidney failure that occurs in 10 to 15 percent of these patients.

Headlines March 16 were about a much happier chronic event: Match Day, when medical students at MCG and across the country found out where they will be doing their residencies, the three to seven years that follow medical school where they hone their knowledge and skill in family medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, neurosurgery or some other chosen specialty.

This summer, about 150 new residents will start this essential learning process at MCG and Georgia Regents Health System, joining about 300 other residents already training here to become the kind of doctors we want for ourselves and our loved ones when we need them.

 

THIS IS THE KIND of news we all want to read about the state of Georgia’s only public medical school, which calls Augusta home. We want to know that our medical school has what it needs to educate the next generation of physicians and scientists for our state and nation, and to contribute to a better understanding of the body and mind that optimizes disease prevention and treatment.

However, the headlines and realities of the nation’s budget crisis and the sequestration strategy give us all pause to consider much gloomier reports.

The biomarker study mentioned earlier was funded by the National Institutes of Health, which faces a $1.6 billion budget cut in the current fiscal year because of sequestration. Moreover, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the single largest funder of resident training, or graduate medical education, in our country, anticipates a 2 percent cut in Medicare alone. This could result in fewer resident trainees.

It also appears that physician and hospital reimbursement may take the most direct hits from this reduction. In fact, our own health system will sustain a $2.4 million hit to its budget in 2014 from this single action.

 

HOWEVER IT SHAKES out, any and all these actions obviously have a negative impact on physician education, scientific discovery and, ultimately, patient care.

Your medical school certainly is not alone in concerns about sequestration’s impact on its present and future. We know, for example, that for many of you who are our colleagues in important federal endeavors such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Savannah River Site, sequestration already is very real and painful.

We also believe that together, we can help our country find better solutions. Please join us in having frank conversations with the nation’s leadership, with our elected representatives, about our concerns for the impact sequestration is having and will have on the physical and economic well-being of our community, our state and our nation.

We appreciate your support in this and all endeavors for your public medical school.

 

(The writer is dean of the Medical College of Georgia, Georgia Regents University.)

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