2008 Industry Outlook
Stretched thin: The Florida Medical Association pleads for more residency programs.
A simple equation is creating complex problems for Florida’s healthcare industry: A shortage in medical residency programs is translating into declining access to care.
The state’s physician population is aging. According to a Florida State University study released in November, 41% of Florida physicians are over 55.
Replacing them as they retire is problematic. Statistics indicate that new physicians tend to practice within 150 miles of where they get their residency training — the second phase of medical training after graduation from medical school. Florida, however, ranks 44th nationally in the number of graduate medical residency slots, meaning too few medical school grads finish their training in Florida and begin practicing here.
New medical schools in Orlando and Miami won’t generate enough graduates to meet the demand. Worse, those grads are likely to end up practicing out of state because of the shortage of residency programs in Florida, says Rich Rasmussen, vice president for strategic communication for the Florida Hospital Association. “We have a system now that will put them through medical school here and see their residency delivered in another state. As taxpayers, we have exported our investment to other states.”
“It’s a huge problem. We don’t have adequate graduate medical education
(residency) programs in Florida.”
— Dr. Karl M. Altenburger, president, Florida Medical Association
[Photo: Kelly LaDuke]
Meanwhile, access to care is becoming a bigger problem throughout Florida, says Dr. Karl M. Altenburger, president of the Florida Medical Association. “The access to care problem has been present for a while in selected areas of the state in selected specialties. That access over the last several years has expanded to include most of the state and most specialties.”
Rasmussen says U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has introduced legislation to redistribute federal funds for residency programs in states below the average, but the bill has stalled because other states believe it will hurt their medical programs. “Even if the bill passes tomorrow,” Altenburger says, “we’re talking about a five- to 10-year pipeline. The longer you delay, the worse the problem.”