Safety Net Hospital Alliance announces expansion of medical residency programs in Florida

by | Apr 23, 2024

The Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida has launched 721 new graduate medical education slots to combat the state’s impending doctor shortage.

The Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida announced on Tuesday the creation of 721 new graduate medical education (GME) slots to address the state’s growing demand for medical specialists.

The new training positions have been established as part of a sustained effort involving the state’s major hospitals and a legislative push spearheaded by Senate President Kathleen Passidomo. The “Slots for Docs” funding, approved in the last two legislative sessions, will support the initiative.

“Florida is one of the fastest growing states in the US and we have an urgent need for more doctors to care for our residents,” said Lindy Kennedy, President of Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida. “Expanding the GME doctor training pipeline is by far the best way to head off the looming doctor shortage crisis.”

Since 2016, the GME Startup Bonus Program has significantly expanded, adding a total of 2,505 new training slots across Florida hospitals, including this year’s addition. The positions are expected to be filled within the next three years, enhancing the state’s capacity to train and retain medical professionals in critical areas of need.

Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida members include Tampa General Hospital, UF Health Shands, and Broward Health, among others.

The initiative aims to alleviate the projected shortage of 18,000 physicians by 2035 due to Florida’s burgeoning population growth and comes just months after state leaders urged the Florida Legislature to increase the number of GME spots.

In December, Wendy Scott, the Staff Director for Health and Human Services Policy at OPPAGA—the Florida Legislature’s research office—addressed the Florida House Select Committee on Health Innovation. During her presentation, Scott emphasized the importance of increasing residency slots, particularly for graduates from Florida’s medical schools, as a critical strategy to retain more physicians within the state.

The committee noted that while Florida is making strides in increasing the number of medical school graduates, the bottleneck appears to present itself in the number of available residency positions. Scott told lawmakers on the committee that the best retention rates are observed when medical professionals complete both their education and residency in Florida.

“Of Florida medical school graduates who started graduate medical education between calendar years 2008 and 2015 who also went to a Florida GME program, approximately 75 percent were licensed and practicing in Florida two years after completion of their GME training,” Scott told the House committee. “In contrast, only 42 percent of those who started their GME training, but went to medical school outside of Florida were retained as Florida physicians. The main takeaway here is that retention consistently remains higher for people that go to both medical school and GME in Florida.”

Comparisons with other states, such as California and Texas, were drawn to illustrate the potential for expanding residency programs, with both states having successfully managed to retain a higher number of medical graduates, partly attributed to the larger number of residency slots.



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