This month, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) awarded the first round of Medicare-funded physician residency positions to teaching hospitals in geographic regions identified as Health Professional Shortage Areas. These are areas identified as having a shortage of primary and mental health providers. The awards went to 100 hospitals in 30 states, including Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, and North and South Dakota.
Most of the residency programs are in primary care, including obstetrics and mental health specialties.
“Prioritizing these awards to areas that need the most support will bolster the workforce while also arming new providers with a unique understanding of the specific needs of these communities,” said Dr. Meena Seshamani, Deputy Administrator and Director for CMS’ Center for Medicare. “This is critical in advancing our goals of providing high-quality care to all people.”
The purpose of the awards is to help ease the nationwide shortage of physicians. Experts predict the problem will worsen over the next several years, and rural areas could be hardest hit.
The impact on rural America
The projected decline in the number of doctors practicing in rural communities is a sobering prospect for populations that already deal with higher patient-to-physician ratios than their urban counterparts. This disparity could leave residents driving greater distances to receive medical treatment. It’s inconvenient for patients to travel the extra miles, particularly during the winter. High gas prices present a financial challenge.
Cuts at smaller facilities are reflective of the shortage. One example is the rash of maternity ward closures in rural communities. Between 2004 and 2014, residents in 179 rural counties lost access to local hospital-based obstetrics. Currently, 54% of rural counties are without those services. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists predicts a 25% reduction in the number of obstetricians/gynecologists by 2030.
CMS will make 1,000 such residency program awards over the next five years. Applications for the second round of awards opened this month and will close on March 31, 2023.
Are you beginning or wrapping up your residency? Wapiti Medical Staffing has resources to prepare you for what is next!