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A personal gift to a university, nursing industry

Health care entrepreneur Martin Miller and his wife, Laura Lynn, have deep roots in Valdosta, Georgia’s southernmost major city.

They grew up there and went to college at Valdosta State. They launched their business careers in Valdosta as well.

Now they are giving back.

vdostaThe couple have given $1 million to Valdosta State University to create an endowment that will provide scholarships for students interested in a career in community or behavioral health nursing.

“There’s a desperate need for good people to do these things,’’ Miller said in an interview with GHN on Monday. He cited the recent trend of moving care from institutions to home- and community-based services. full story

Health professionals warn against Kemp plan

The bill is more than 800 pages long. It was introduced just days before the early March “Crossover Day,” when a bill must have passed one legislative chamber to have a shot at ultimate approval.

But those impediments did not diminish interest in Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s proposal to restructure the state boards that license tens of thousands of Georgia professionals, including those in several health care professions.

Senate Bill 445 drew a packed hearing room at the state Capitol on Tuesday, as the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee met to consider the licensing legislation.

The debate appeared to center on a fundamental question: Should professionals such as nurses be disciplined and overseen by a board of their peers, or by an independent, seven-member consumer board, as Kemp is proposing?

Kemp explained the legislation as an attempt to redirect the resources in his office — which has taken a 17 percent funding cut over the past four years — and streamline procedures of 43 professional licensing boards. The bill is so long because of heavy cross-referencing to various other laws, he explained.

The bill would create a new position, director of professional licensing, and establish the seven-member consumer board that would decide disciplinary action for all the professions. The current professional boards would still exist but would focus on policy.

A restructuring, Kemp said, would reduce wait times for routine licensing and make the process more efficient. Last year, he said, his office fielded 58,000 calls from applicants asking about the status of their licenses.

Despite Kemp’s strong pitch, his proposal drew unanimous opposition from representatives of health care associations and licensing boards who testified at Tuesday’s hearing. Most stressed patient safety in their arguments against changing the system.

The Georgia Nurses Association said the Board of Nursing’s efficiency has shown significant improvement recently. “We’re not clear that the total restructuring of the board is needed,’’ said Debbie Hatmaker of GNA.

The nurses’ organization says license revocation, discipline and complaints are best regulated by those who are professionally educated to interpret the complexities of health care. full story

Deal’s priority: Keeping doctors in Georgia

Gov. Nathan Deal said Tuesday that his proposed budget would fund 400 new residency training slots in hospitals across the state for graduates of Georgia medical schools.

Georgia taxpayers currently fund these young physicians’ education through medical school, ‘‘only to see them perform their residency outside of our state and not return,’’ Deal said in his State of the State address.

The new residency slots were among several health initiatives the Georgia governor outlined as priorities for 2012, his second year in office.

Fixing the doctor training gap is crucial for a state stuck in a physician shortage that shows no signs of easing.

Last year, three of every four graduates of Georgia medical schools went to do their residency training in other states. That’s a problem because the bulk of physicians end up practicing within 60 miles of where they did their training.

Primary care physicians are in particularly short supply in Georgia.

Another health initiative that Deal cited in his speech was the addition of $10 million in next year’s budget to establish more ‘‘accountability courts’’ in Georgia. These would include drug courts and mental health courts, created to help offenders avoid jail time through rigorous rehabilitation programs. full story

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