With additional money to plan a new medical education commons in Augusta and money for residencies, the Legislature also showed its commitment to growing and keeping MCG's base where it is, one Augusta lawmaker said.
When the dust settled late last week on the Fiscal Year 2009 budget, the Georgia General Assembly had approved $7.2 million in planning money for the Athens and Savannah campuses, and an extension of $2.8 million from the previous year, Dean D. Douglas Miller said. The Legislature also added $3 million to begin planning for a new medical education building, Dr. Miller said.
Commitment to that building, which will share space with a new School of Dentistry that is also funded in this fiscal year's budget, amounts to a $200 million commitment to keeping MCG in Augusta, said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Ben Harbin, R-Evans.
"I think the commitment was made to keep the base of MCG in Augusta," he said. "And I think the approach of allowing MCG to be the leader in educating physicians all over the state is a good approach now."
The Legislature was able to restore nearly $1 million that will fund 297 residencies at MCG, Mr. Harbin said.
But state Sen. Ed Tarver, D-Augusta, said many questions and uncertainties remain about the expansion plan, of which he has been frequently critical.
"Certainly, there's some support for the initiative, and I think people will have to rely on their own best judgment in making decisions as to how much support is there and whether or not it will sustain all of the requests that have been made regarding this expansion," he said.
Still, MCG has identified two finalists for an assistant dean to oversee a new clinical campus in Savannah and worked with a search firm on drawing up specifications for the campus dean in Athens, Dr. Miller said. Some students are already rotating through the neurology and emergency medicine programs at St. Joseph's/Candler Health System in Savannah, where the regional clinical campus will be based.
"We're off and running," said Paul P. Hinchey, the president and CEO of St. Joseph's/Candler.
Having the assistant dean on board, which MCG hopes will happen by July 1, would allow the program to proceed toward becoming a residential program by 2011, Mr. Hinchey said.
MCG is hoping to identify candidates for the Athens position this month and begin interviews next month, with hopes of making an offer by November, Dr. Miller said. That position will be critical in working with the accrediting body to get the first class seated in Athens by 2010, he said.
"This is a very important step," he said. "To me, the Legislature has signaled a strong commitment to growth in Augusta by approving this additional planning money for developing a state of the art facility."
Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or firstname.lastname@example.org.