Thursday, October 16, 2014

The cure for doctor shortages in rural South Dakota is to find more in-state residency spots

South Dakota medical school graduates who practice their residency within the state usually end up staying in state to practice medicine. But a shortage of open residency spots is forcing graduates to leave the state for their residency, resulting in many of those doctors beginning their careers out of state, leaving rural South Dakota with a severe lack of doctors, Scott Feldman reports for the Rapid City Journal.

About 40 percent of people who get their medical degree in South Dakota remain in state to practice, but when they also have their residency in state, that number jumps to 77 percent, said Dr. Mary Milroy, president of he South Dakota State Medical Association, Feldman writes. The problem is that South Dakota currently has 225 medical students and only 134 residency spots. That means that about 40 percent of the state's medical students are forced to leave the state for their residency.

That's bad news in a mostly rural state where "25 percent of South Dakotans live in a place with a shortage of primary health care options, and many of those people are in rural West River areas," Feldman writes. Milroy said the best way to improve the retention rate is "to increase the availability and range of graduate-level residency opportunities in the state."

The problem "is that the number of federally funded graduate-residency spots has been capped," Feldman writes. "Three bills are now before Congress that would increase the number of federally funded graduate medical education positions by 15,000 over the next five years. If passed, these pieces of legislation would provide critical funding to aid in the expansion of South Dakota’s residency slots, Milroy said." (Read more)

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