Regents considering SWGA medical program expansion

ATLANTA — The Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia will vote Tuesday on whether to expand a program that puts medical students in local hospitals to advance their training and education.

The board will consider adding Graduate Medical Education programs at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, Tift Regional Medical Center, Archbold Medical Center, Colquitt Regional Medical Center and South Georgia Medical Center.

Those programs will bring 146 new medical residents into Southwest Georgia to focus on internal medicine, family medicine, general surgery, emergency medicine and pediatrics.

The five hospitals are part of a Southwest Georgia medical consortium that partered with state educational and political leaders to create a residency program.

In 2010, area hospital CEOs met with officials from the Medical College of Georgia. Together they created a plan to combine community resources, hospital resources, expertise and administration to improve access to health care through the development and expansion of graduate medical education programs, resulting in the consortium.

“We have a proven record of physicians training in Southwest Georgia staying in Southwest Georgia,” Dr. Doug Patten, senior vice president of medical affairs at Phoebe, told a Herald reporter in August. “We partner with the consortium for an opportunity to expand that.

“The harder it is to see a primary care physician, the greater the cost (of health care). If patients don’t have the help they need to manage chronic conditions, the more likely they are to (develop problems) - so this is one of those things we believe is a valuable investment.”

The affiliated hospitals have contributed more than $1 million for the creation and expansion of medical residency programs in Georgia. MCG matched an initial capital call of $500,000. Support from the Georgia legislature allowed additional funding totaling $716,000 to be provided through the Georgia Physician Workforce Board.

Staff writer Jennifer Maddox-Parks contributed to this report.