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Commentary: Fill the gap in primary care

Georgia faces major hurdles in addressing its shortage of primary care physicians.

Among them is a low cap on Medicare-funded graduate medical education residency slots in the state.

clipboardIn a new GHN Commentary, two health care officials suggest several actions that the Georgia Legislature can take to help erase the primary care deficit.

Denise Kornegay of the Statewide Area Health Education Network and Matt Caseman of the Georgia Rural Health Association write about the need for tax credits to help build the primary care workforce, and for new state funds to create new residency slots in Georgia.

“We must also increase both the number and total monetary amount of loan forgiveness awards available through the Georgia Board for Physician Workforce,’’ Kornegay and Caseman write.

Here is a link to their Commentary.

 

Georgia Health News welcomes Commentary submissions. If you would like to propose a Commentary piece for Georgia Health News, please email Andy Miller, editor of GHN, at amiller@georgiahealthnews.com

Nurses say state shortchanges licensing board

Georgia nurses are concerned that lack of funding for their state licensing board will create problems in protecting patients from an impaired, unlicensed or dangerous nurse.

A new law that goes into effect Monday will require nurses to report suspected professional violations to the Georgia Board of Nursing. But the Georgia Nurses Association (GNA) says the budget for the state’s nursing board is not sufficient to allow for proper regulation of their profession.

Currently, average licensure fees collected by the Secretary of State’s Office for registered nurses total about $4.1 million per year, while the budget appropriation for the operation of the nursing board is less than 50 percent of that, says Jeremy Arieh, a GNA spokesman.

A Georgia statute requires that the total amount of licensure fees charged by a professional licensing board “shall approximate the total of the direct and indirect costs to the state of operations of the board.” Based on that, the nursing board is not getting the full funding it is due, GNA says. full story

Nurse practitioners aim to fill care gap (video)

Betting on Reno
(Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series of articles on the Athens uninsured initiative, produced by graduate students in the Health and Medical Journalism Program at the University of Georgia. Visit the previous articles by clicking on the red button to the left.)

More and more Americans, especially in rural areas, say they have no primary care doctor. And the situation may get worse before it gets better. As millions of people become newly insured in 2014 and the population grows, many are worried that those with new coverage will overwhelm the nation’s already short supply of primary care physicians.

“Fifty years ago, half of the doctors in America practiced primary care, but today fewer than one in three do,” the Senate Primary Health and Aging subcommittee reported in January. And of the 17,000 new doctors graduating from medical school each year, only 7 percent choose a primary care career.

So who will fill this growing primary care gap, especially in rural America? In many cases, the answer is nurse practitioners (NPs) – advanced practice registered nurses who have earned a postgraduate nursing degree that prepares them to practice at a more advanced level than a regular RN.

NP training is faster and less expensive than medical school, and while the number of primary care doctors is dwindling, the number of NPs in primary care settings is increasing.

“When it comes to primary care, you are seeing fewer and fewer doctors, and more and more nurse practitioners and physician assistants,” said Joshua Cole, who helps members of Nevada’s Access to Healthcare Network obtain appropriate care. Years of medical school and residency aren’t needed to diagnose an earache, he said. “That is very easy for a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant to do.” full story

Heroes lift spirits with visit to Grady

In the early 1940s, shortly after U.S. entry into World War II, Irma “Pete’’ Dryden of New York City was inspired when she heard of the young black men training as military pilots.

Dryden became a nurse for that unit in Alabama, which became known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

“We would see to it that they got the best possible care,’’ Dryden, 92, said Thursday at Grady Memorial Hospital.

Dryden was among the honorees at a Tuskegee Airmen event hosted by the Morehouse School of Medicine and Grady staff.

They heard a lecture about the prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency from Dr. L. Ray Matthews, a Morehouse and Grady physician, who has been researching that deficiency and its association with chronic medical conditions.

Dr. Kenneth Wilson, assistant professor of clinical surgery and the director of trauma at Morehouse School of Medicine, talked of the history of the Tuskegee Airmen and the racism they endured.

Wilson cited studies at the time that asserted blacks possessed brains significantly smaller than those or whites and that blacks were naturally lacking in courage.

The Tuskegee Airmen’s experience helped refute those myths. The all-black 99th Pursuit Squadron of the U.S. Army Air Corps trained at a segregated Tuskegee airfield, and the airmen eventually flew more than 1,500 combat missions. The squadron saw action in North Africa, Sicily and the mainland of Italy.

Heros Visit Grady

(From left): Hillard Pouncy, Bernice Berthoud, Irma Dryden, John Haupert and Edgar Lewis.

full story

Legislators vote to restore child-only policies

One unintended consequence of health care reform was that sales of ‘‘child-only’’ insurance policies were halted in Georgia and other states.

These policies are usually bought by parents who have an employer policy that doesn’t offer dependent coverage. Sometimes they’re bought by parents who can’t purchase coverage for themselves due to cost or a health condition, and who want to cover their children.

When the Affordable Care Act required child-only insurance policies to accept kids with pre-existing health conditions, insurers in Georgia decided to stop offering new individual policies that cover children only.

But late Monday night, the state Senate passed House Bill 1166 aims to restore these policies to the private insurance market.

The measure, already approved by the House, would require insurers that sell individual health policies in Georgia to also offer child-only plans during an open enrollment period. full story

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