Baptist Health and UAMS dedicated a new building in North Little Rock that should help bring 120 or more new medical residents in a variety of fields.
The Baptist Health-UAMS Medical Education Program is a joint venture with UAMS that started with 24 residents in family medicine and internal medicine, but will expand to as many as 120 or more residents in a variety of other medical disciplines.
“For decades and decades to come, people are going to benefit from this program. Baptist Health and UAMS had the vision to take advantage of this site here in North Little Rock and the hospital and an opportunity to train more residents,” said Troy Wells, Baptist Health President and CEO.
“We are in a crisis in terms of training of healthcare professionals. By 2032, we’ll be over 120,000 physicians short of our needs. So adding graduate medical education (GME) slots to train people who will then stay in Arkansas and practice is critical,” said Dr. Cam Patterson, UAMS chancellor.
The Baptist Health-UAMS program will be housed in a $32 million, four story, 160,000 sq. ft. Facility on the North Little Rock campus of Baptist Health. The building features state-of-the-art equipment, conference rooms, a resident lounge, shower facilities, an exercise room, kitchenette, and patent care clinical areas. In addition, the new building will house other physician clinics as a as lab and x-ray rooms.
The need for more medical residents is a reflection of generational shifts and outdated public policy. The large baby boomer generation is retiring and younger millennials are a smaller population so there is the loss of skilled labor in a variety of fields, including medicine.
However, an older Medicare funding formula passed by Congress decades ago also caps the number of residents that can serve at a health care institution in order to control costs. Needs are outpacing the number of medical professionals, but hospitals are stymied by the medical resident cap.
“Every facility has caps on how many residents they can take. So the North Little Rock hospital didn’t have those caps set yet, so this enabled us to grow this program to over 120 spots ultimately,” Wells said, in explaining how they are able to be aggressive with this program.
He said private investment might be able to pick up some of the tab for paying medical residents and the facilities they need, but it’s an expensive proposition.
“For us to continue to grow more and more as these facilities are capped, private dollars could help us offset,” he said. “More importantly, the federal law needs to be changed.”
Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., is working to expand the cap on GME funding put in place in the 1997 Balanced Budget Act. The act caps the number of residents a hospital can claim for Medicare GME (graduate medical education). New legislation would increase resident slots by 3,000 annually between 2021 and 2025. Half of those slots would be in specialty fields.
Boozman said Medicare reimbursement is also low in Arkansas and too often homegrown talent will leave the state for residencies and start their practices in states like Texas, which has higher Medicare reimbursement.
AAMC reports there are 38 medical residents per 100,000 in population, which is deemed a shortage of slots. In Arkansas, there are 26 residents per 100,000 people.