Doctor shortage: What is being done?

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – Ninety-one thousand fewer doctors are expected by 2020.

It is a shortage concerning our medical schools, hospitals, and you.

We know the Association of American Medical Colleges is pushing for a change, and wants Congress to lift the cap on funding for residency programs. For now, our medical schools are working to try and find ways to prevent a bottleneck in doctor training.

More medical students are now going to class on Grand Rapids’ Medical Mile, as Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine has increased its enrollment to 200 spots a year.

It is an effort to get our future doctors through school and into residency training before those programs shrink due to lack of funding.

“People are working very hard to come up with solutions, and there’s of course the constant appeal that the legislature doesn’t act too drastically to reduce the current dollars that support residency training,” Marsha Rappley, M.D., dean of MSU College of Human Medicine.

Three bills were introduced on Capitol Hill last year in both the House and Senate, aimed to fund additional residency slots. They were pushed into committee but never got legs.

24 Hour News 8 contacted the Association of American Medical Colleges Government Relations Office in Washington, D.C.

While they want to see one of those bills become law, they estimate it would cost the government $9 billion during the next decade.

“That’s really been the challenge. There really isn’t an appetite on Capitol Hill to take up legislation that costs a lot of money,” said Leonard Marquez, a spokesperson with Association of American Medical Colleges.

24 Hour News 8 sat down with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder who said he pushed for extensive research before our state’s Medicaid expansion was put into place.

The governor said we have the resources to handle that, but added the potential doctor shortage needs to stay on our radar.

“Overall we’re in pretty good shape, but let’s keep working that issue because long-term I think that is an issue of concern,” said Snyder.

It is a concern pushing hospitals like Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids to look for what they call cost-effective new models and methods in their medical education program.

This, as the Association of American Medical Colleges continues to advocate for legislation to pay for crucial doctor training, something officials say could take years.

Marquez said the fact it has gained attention from both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill is promising and the discussions continue.

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