Policymakers in Washington, as a part of the deficit reduction deliberations, are considering cuts as high as $60 billion over 10 years in federal support for physician-training programs. To help you understand what this means, see what Dr. Peter Rhee, medical director of trauma at the University of Arizona Medical Center and one of the surgeons who treated Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords after the Jan. 8 shooting has to say about the issue:
“If these drastic cuts take place, our hospital would lose about $8.8 million a year for 10 years. This could mean that we no longer would be able to provide the same high-quality care that the shooting victims of the tragic Jan. 8 event in Tucson received. No fewer than 35 physicians-in-training worked continuously and diligently, day and night, as part of our trauma team caring for all those shot on that day. We are fully aware that reducing the deficit is essential, but the public should know what the consequences could be for health care. Teaching the next generation of doctors is critical. Do we want to put our health or our children’s health at risk? If trainees are cut from the system, it quickly would begin to fail. The entire concept of Level I trauma centers would crumble and dismantle before our eyes. Our doctor training programs and teaching hospitals, like our Level I trauma center, save lives every day. I hope that our representatives in Congress remember that and vote to preserve federal support for graduate medical education.”
Yes, we need to address the deficit. But do we really want to jeopardize programs that train the next generation of doctors?
TDWI is pleased that Kevin Lohenry, PhD, PA-C has written a guest post on this important topic. Kevin currently serves as President of the Physician Assistant Education Association and as Director and Assistant Professor of Clinical Family Medicine for the Keck School of Medicine of USC Division of Physician Assistant (PA) Studies.
Graduate Medical Education funding is critical for all primary care providers
By Kevin Lohenry, PhD, PA-C
Better health for America can be achieved only if we have adequate numbers of primary care providers at all levels. For this reason, physician assistants oppose any proposal to cut funding for GME, a 50+ year-old program that has helped underwrite training for many doctors and nurses. The physician assistant profession, which delivers primary care services alongside doctors and nurses, didn’t exist when GME was written into law, and we are therefore ineligible to receive any of this funding. But as advocates for good patient care, we all lose something if GME is cut, especially the patients.
Reducing GME funding would place a significant strain on teaching hospitals and on all of the medical professionals involved in delivering primary care, especially those that treat the medically underserved. It would mean fewer students in primary care programs, exacerbating inadequacies in our primary care workforce – ultimately threatening both access to health care and the quality of the services provided.
Cuts to graduate medical education will mean something to everyone – eventually. Having fewer doctors and nurses available to provide primary care will be felt by everyone – eventually. Physician assistants are opposed to anything that further burdens our primary care system, especially at a time when we are all trying to figure out how to provide better, more efficient services at lower costs.
Cutting funding that helps provide training to a new generation of primary care doctors and nurses is an ill-advised step backward. Patients cannot withstand this type of austerity, and neither can the medical professionals who are trying to keep them safe and healthy.
The Physician Assistant Education Association stands with our physician and nurse partners to keep full GME funding. Full GME funding – and support for the training of a range of primary care disciplines, including physician assistants – is imperative if we are to meet the nation’s goals of providing access to quality patient care.