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Home News-Telegram News Hopkins County Memorial taking steps to become teaching hospital

Hopkins County Memorial taking steps to become teaching hospital

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    Hopkins County Memorial Hospital is taking steps to move beyond being a community hospital to becoming a hospital offering the same services as one in a much larger city.

    HCMH is one of nine Texas hospitals awarded $1.3 million in planning grants from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to assess the feasibility of establishing new graduate medical education programs at their facilities. Grant funds are part of $50 million appropriated by the 83rd Texas Legislature to boost funding for general medical education in Texas.
    These funds are much needed to address the state’s serious physician shortage that creates access difficulties for residents across the state. Texas has the fastest growing population in the nation but a lower-than-average physician to population ratio. Among the most severe shortages are those for primary care physicians, endocrinologists, psychiatrists, geriatricians and pediatric sub-specialists.  
    Retaining in-state medical school graduates and residents is the most effective way to increase the number of physicians in Texas. Eighty percent of Texas medical school graduates who complete their residencies in Texas stay here to practice medicine.
    “For years, Texas has been producing more medical students than residency slots,” said HCMH Chief Executive Officer Michael McAndrew. “So, a lot of our best and brightest leave Texas to go elsewhere to do their residency — they just can’t get a spot here in Texas.”
    According to Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Texas needs an additional 220 residency positions beginning in 2014 and an increasing number thereafter. Without an increase in the number of first-year residency slots, beginning in 2014, 63 Texas medical school graduates will have to conduct their residency training out of state. By 2016, the number is expected to triple.
    “In an effort to begin to change that, the state of Texas decided it would give some grants out to hospitals that have, heretofore, never had a residency program to do a feasibility study, basically, to see if it makes sense for that facility to establish a residency program,” the hospital administrator said. “Working in conjunction with UT-North East and a consulting firm, we put together a grant application and received $150,000 for a two-year period in order to explore that feasibility. We’re hopeful that, upon completion of this feasibility study that we will come to the conclusion that it makes some kind of sense to establish a family practice residency program here.”
    Does this mean HCMH might become a teaching hospital?
    “It would, in fact, be a teaching hospital, an affiliate teaching hospital of the UT system,” McAndrew said. “We think that’s pretty exciting.”
    The first students entering medical residency at HCMH, however, wouldn’t do so for several years, according to McAndrew.
    “The soonest it could occur would be in about two years,” he said. “I don’t know how long the study will take. I’m going to guess it’s going to take six months or longer, in which case we would pretty much be up to summertime and we couldn’t possibly start anything before the beginning of the next year, and I think that would be terribly optimistic. So, I think it would take a couple of years. Theoretically, in 2016 at least, we could very well be looking at starting a family practice residency program; the first year we would have four residents and the second year, we would add four residents and the third year we would add four more residents. We would have a total of 12 with four graduating every year and four new ones coming in, hopefully, from Texas medical schools.”
    The other hospitals participating in the program include Baylor College of Medicine Medical Center, Houston; Doctor’s Hospital at Renaissance, Edinburg; Knapp Medical Center, Weslaco; Scenic Mountain Medical Center, Big Spring; DeTar Healthcare System, Victoria; Texoma Medical Center, Denison; and Weatherford Regional Medical Center, Weatherford.

 

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