ST. PETERSBURG — Tampa Bay area medical centers will get $13 million in state money during the next year to attract more doctors here for residency training, Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday.
Physicians and medical educators from All Children’s Hospital, Moffitt Cancer Center and other Bay area health centers welcomed the governor at a news conference at All Children’s. Scott has been touring the state to promote an $80 million residency program approved in the 2013-14 state budget.
The Statewide Residency Program is distributing $1.3 million to All Children’s, $5.1 million to Tampa General Hospital, $2 million to Largo Medical Center, $1.9 million to Moffitt Cancer Center and smaller sums to six other area hospitals.
As a majority of medical students nationwide choose to stay in the area where they complete their residency, funding for top candidates is essential to fill a shortage of physicians across the state, hospital administrators say.
“Having residencies in Florida is essential to draw brains and talent into the state and then keep them in the state,” said Jonathan Ellen, president and physician in chief at All Children’s.
All Children’s relies in part on federal funding for residencies, but it’s not enough to support its growing graduate medical education program, Ellen said.
Many hospitals must raise private money to cover the remainder of their program costs, Scott said. The additional state money will help them sustain or expand their residency slots, leading to more physician jobs being filled.
“We’re not going to have a great state if we don’t have a great health care system, and one of the most important things we can do is make sure we have great doctors,” Scott said.
Hospitals have received state money in the past to help pay for graduate medical education, but this is the first time money has been set aside specifically for these programs.
The Florida Legislature took $52 million from existing funds set aside for hospitals and added $28 million to create the residency program.
The allocation to each hospital is based on the number of full-time residents. In subsequent years, the state Agency for Health Care Administration will be able to track the growth of residencies in hospitals across Florida.
Other hospitals in the Tampa Bay area receiving money include Florida Hospital Tampa, Florida Hospital Carrollwood, Morton F. Plant Hospital in Clearwater, Northside Hospital in St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg General Hospital and Bayfront Medical Center.
With medical schools in Florida graduating more students than there are available residency slots, there is an obvious need to invest in these kinds of programs to retain doctors, according to Dr. Charles Paidas, vice dean at the University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine.
The fourth most populous state in the country with a sizable aging population, Florida is also facing a shortage of primary care physicians.
If the state hopes to compete as one of the best in the nation for health care, the first step will be attracting more doctors, said Elizabeth Dudek, secretary of the Agency for Health Care Administration.
“One of the things that’s been a little bit disappointing sometimes is not having Florida on the top of every list of the No. 1 hospitals around the nation,” she said.