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Florida Increases Medical Residency Slots, Still Faces Doctor Shortages

hospital workers in hospital
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

A new report shows that Florida hospitals have increased their number of residency slots 19 percent since 2013.

The state faces a severe shortage of about 7,000 medical specialists through 2025.

Since Florida policymakers began focusing on graduate medical education in 2013, hospitals have filled 736 more residency slots.  A total of 310 newly filled residency slots were in physician specialties facing the most severe shortages.

The report, “Training Tomorrow’s Doctors: Graduate Medical Education in Florida 2016 Annual Report” was produced by the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida (SNHAF) and the Teaching Hospital Council of Florida to document and evaluate progress toward increasing residency slots.

“This is our first glimpse at both where we are now in terms of medical residency slots and where we need to be,’’ said Carlos Migoya, president and CEO of Jackson Health System and immediate-past chairman of SNHAF, whose hospitals provide more than 70 percent of Florida’s graduate medical education programs.

“This report makes it clear that while we’re not where we want to be yet in solving the physician
shortage crisis, the concerted efforts of SNHAF members to increase the training opportunities for Florida’s next generation of doctors are already paying off.’’

Doctors are more likely to practice in the area they complete their residency. With few residency slots, many doctors educated in Florida leave for other states.

David Hart, vice president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, said it's important for the state to continue creating residency positions, not just for health care access, but for financial reasons.

"It comes down to really protecting a tax payer investment. After all, taxpayers subsidize a pretty substantial amount of four-year degrees and medical degrees in Florida."

According to the report, residency shortages span every Medicaid region in the state, and in specialties like psychiatry, family medicine, general surgery, adult and pediatric anesthesia, cardiology, neurology and pulmonology.

In 2013, Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature appropriated $80 million in recurring state and matching federal funds to create the Medicaid Residency Program (MRP). The MRP initially funded 3,896 residency slots and now funds 4,632. Nineteen of those hospitals that previously had no residency programs now do, raising the number of participating hospitals to 60.

In 2015, the Florida Legislature appropriated an additional $100 million for the Graduate Medical Education Startup Bonus and Retention Programs. These programs provide hospitals a one-time $100,000 bonus for every residency slot created in a shortage specialty and at the end of each fiscal year direct any remaining funding to hospitals that have slots in the shortage areas as retention incentives.

In the first year of the GME Startup Bonus Program, 66 new residency positions in seven shortage specialties qualified for the bonus. Under the GME Retention Program, the number of filled residency slots in shortage specialties grew from 1,869 to 2,179.

“We are confident that state leaders and policymakers will see not only the progress we are making together in securing Florida’s health care future, but the remarkable return on the public’s investment in GME,’’ said Dr. Jonathan Ellen, president and vice dean at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and chairman of SNHAF. “These are real results that are making a real impact on Floridians’ lives and a heck of a bargain to boot.”

Daylina Miller is a multimedia reporter for WUSF and Health News Florida, covering health in the Tampa Bay area and across the state.