Los Angeles County Could Face Heightened Physician Shortage
Los Angeles County officials say the potential loss of medical resident slots at Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital could contribute to physician shortages in the county and statewide, the Los Angeles Times reports (Rosenblatt, Los Angeles Times, 3/21).
The hospital, formerly known as King/Drew Medical Center, failed a CMS inspection conducted over the summer, resulting in a loss of eligibility to participate in Medicare at a cost of about $200 million annually, about half the hospital's budget. Federal funding to the facility was scheduled to end by Nov. 30, 2006, but CMS officials granted a request by the county to extend funding through March 2007.
To help retain funding and revamp hospital services, the county downsized the facility as part of its Metrocare plan and transferred management to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (California Healthline, 11/29/06).
County officials now are seeking a second extension of federal funding, this one running to Aug. 15. If the extension is denied, the facility could lose its 250 slots for medical residents permanently because of the way Medicare funds are allotted to fund physician training programs.
Bruce Chernof, director of the county Department of Health Services, said the slots in question account for about 15% of the county's physician-training positions.
In addition, Chernof said a denial of the extension request would require the county to find $60 million to maintain services at the hospital or close the hospital.
Federal regulators are evaluating whether a second extension is legal (Los Angeles Times, 3/21).
In related news, KQED's "The California Report" on Tuesday included a discussion on factors weighing on people's decision to pursue careers in medicine.
The segment includes comments from:
- Jim Dunford, a faculty member at the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine;
- Jess Mandel, associate dean for undergraduate medical education at UCSD School of Medicine; and
- Students and residents at the medical school (Goldberg, "The California Report," KQED, 3/20).