The University System of Georgia's Board of Regents voted Tuesday to disburse $1.2 million in funds the legislature appropriated last year. Gov. Nathan Deal has said he wants lawmakers to make funds available in coming years, too, to eventually help create 400 residency positions at hospitals across the state.
The hospitals will still be on the hook for paying the residents, but the state money will help with the multi-year process required of accreditation and federal Medicare approval. Medicare funds are normally available to cover much of the salaries for the interns.
Athens Regional Medical Center and St. Mary's Health Care System have been in discussion the financial challenge of residencies for years with Georgia Regents University, the state's public medical school. Deal recognized the state was unlikely to convince hospitals to make the heavy financial commitment to becoming teaching hospitals without taxpayers covering some of the costs.
Georgia has a physician shortage, and it has increased the number of students it educates at Georgia Regents by adding a campus in Athens. But unless those graduates have more places to pursue their required post-graduate education, they'll have to go out of state, which doesn't help Georgia's shortage since most doctors settle down in the states where they serve residencies.
Part of the reason for putting a campus in Athens is the opportunity for residencies in the hospitals there. University officials are also hoping for residents to work in Gainesville. Progress has been slow because hospital officials worried about the expense.
The five Southwest Georgia hospitals approached the university for the opportunity to hire residents.