Change in the Oklahoma medical residency bill criticized
BY WAYNE GREENE World Senior Writer
Tuesday, May 08, 2012
5/08/12 at 7:56 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - While most of the money in a $3 million plan to deal with the state's doctor shortage should be used for medical residencies, a spokesman for the Oklahoma State Medical Association said using some of it to increase the size of medical schools in Tulsa is not a make-or-break issue.
The Oklahoma Osteopathic Association board has taken a strong stance, voting last week to oppose a change in Senate Bill 1280 that would allow some of the funding to be used to increase the size of University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University medical schools in Tulsa.
Sponsors of the bill say most of the money, in fact, will be used for rural residencies, but the bill was broadened to allow any money left over to also be used for expanding the two medical school classes.
The plan to increase the state's investment in residencies has the backing of Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders, and the change was made late in the legislative process.
Wes Glinsman, a lobbyist for the Oklahoma State Medical Association, said the group strongly supports the bill but feels the funding has to give priority to residencies. The medical association represents allopathy physicians.
"Our first priority is on the residencies," Glinsman said. "We know that's where the bottleneck is. If there is extra money available that would certainly be an interesting problem to have.
"More medical school students are not a bad thing, if it allows us to keep the best and the brightest in the state and make it a more attractive profession and brings more people into it."
But he said the osteopathic association is right in that the priority for any funding should be on the medical residencies.
Both the OU and OSU medical schools in Tulsa are planning to increase the size of their medical school classes to address the state's shortage of physicians, but the president of the Oklahoma Osteopathic Association said Monday that none of the residency money should be used for that.
"Our biggest threat to retention is the lack of primary care - especially rural primary care - residency programs," said Dr. Layne Subera, president of the osteopathic association.
The association's board voted unanimously last week to oppose diverting any of the residency money to medical school expansion.
"If you try to do everything, I'm afraid we'll come up with a poor-quality program and nobody will be happy," Subera said.
As of 2010, more students graduate from medical school nationally than there are residencies to complete their training, he said.
By increasing the number of residencies, the state can import medical school students whose education is paid for by other states.
"Wouldn't it make more sense to let them pay the expense and costs, and let our citizens get the benefits?" he asked.
Glinsman said rural Oklahomans are more concerned with having physicians serving their communities than they are in whether those physicians have an M.D. or D.O. after their names, and all sides need to unite to solve the residency issue.
"I certainly hope everybody can come together with a compromise in conference committee and put this bill forward," he said.
Medical schooland residency
Physician training is a two-stage process.
Medical school - allopathy or osteopathic - typically lasts four years.
After students graduate from medical school, they complete their education in residency programs that can last from three to seven years, depending on the specialty the physician is pursuing.
Original Print Headline: Changes in medical residency bill chided
Wayne Greene 918-581-8308