Change may be on the horizon for medical residents in South Carolina.
The Graduate Medical Education Advisory Group, a statewide panel of lawmakers, doctors and health policy leaders, compiled a list of draft recommendations this month that could alter how millions of state and federal dollars are spent on residency slots here. The group specifically wants to place more doctors in rural South Carolina where health care providers are often scarce.
“We’re not getting the outcomes for the money we’re spending,” said S.C. Medicaid Director Tony Keck.
Hospitals that train residents in South Carolina received a combined $268 million from the federal Medicare program and the state Medicaid agency last year. This includes supplemental teaching payments, which help pay experienced doctors to teach these doctors-in-training.
More than half of all that money goes to the Medical University of South Carolina, which trains about 70 percent of the graduate medical education workforce in the state.
Most of MUSC’s medical residents live in Charleston. The advisory group would like to create new graduate medical education spots, especially new family medicine and primary care residencies, and locate those doctors in under-served parts of the state.
The advisory group also is considering ways to recruit more medical school students from rural areas, hoping they will return there after graduation.
“We’re all in agreement about what needs to happen. We need more primary care physicians to come out of the program,” said Medical University Hospital CEO Pat Cawley, a member of the advisory group. “The problem is, a great idea, but it takes many years to put that into place.”
It takes about one year to recruit medical residents and at least three years to train them. Some medical residencies require five to seven years of training after medical school.
The advisory group, chaired by Francis Marion University President Fred Carter, is expected to release its final report in December.
Keck said he is encouraged by the group’s progress this year.
“Usually ... you have a lot of really significant pushback from teaching facilities and medical schools who have a vested interest in keeping the system like it is,” he said. “I think most people are really surprised by the general consensus that’s developed.”
Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.