Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Washington lawmakers amend state law, allow second medical school to be opened

Washington took a giant step toward expanding access to doctors for people in rural areas. State lawmakers amended a 100-year-old law that allowed only the University of Washington to operate a medical school, Katherine Long reports for The Seattle Times. The amendment, which easily passed the House and Senate and was signed into law by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, will allow Washington State University to create a medical school.

"There are still many hurdles ahead. Although both the House and Senate have budgeted money to get the accreditation process started, it will take millions more to create the school," Long writes.
Even if everything goes smoothly, WSU won't begin teaching its first class of 40 students until the fall of 2017, with those students graduating in 2021 and beginning to practice medicine in 2024.

UW officials argued that the state doesn't have the capacity for two medical schools; Washington has a population of about 7 million, with WSU located near the Idaho border, Long writes. But Lisa Brown, chancellor of the WSU Spokane campus, told The Associated Press in April 2014 that only 100 of UW's 1,600 residency slots in the state are located in Eastern Washington.

Washington has 147 primary care health professional shortage areas (HPSA), meeting only 46.71 percent of the state's needs, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported in April 2014. Kaiser said the state needed to add 228 practitioners to remove HPSA status.

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