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Doctor shortage in MS could worsen if federal program goes unaddressed

Photo courtesy of TeleSouth Communication Inc.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) says he will continue to press Senate leaders to act soon to reauthorize a primary care physician training program that currently benefits Mississippi.

Cochran is part of a bipartisan effort to have the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee approve legislation to reauthorize funding for the Health Centers Graduate Medical Education Program. Authorization for the program ends Sept. 30, which would jeopardize efforts to train medical residents in community-based settings.

One such Teaching Health Center (THC) program is the East Central HealthNet Rural Family Medicine Residency Program sponsored by Rush Health Systems and Anderson Regional Medical Center in Meridian.

“Mississippi has an ongoing need for more primary care physicians and specialist. Teaching Health Centers, like the program in Meridian, work proactively to meet that need,” Cochran said. “I hope the Senate and House will act soon to maintain these important programs, which also benefit many patients.”

Cochran is among the cosponsors of the Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act (S.1754) who recently wrote a letter encouraging the chairman and ranking member of the HELP Committee to advance their bill.

“We are already hearing from THCs that without a guaranteed funding stream, they may need to give termination notices to current residents. Any loss in residents would represent a step backward in our efforts to end primary care shortages,” the letter said. “This impending funding cliff would have a devastating impact on health center operations and ultimately the health and wellbeing of Americans in rural and underserved communities.”

THC residents nationwide this year will have provided more than 1 million primary medical care visits to underserved communities in 27 states and the District of Columbia.

S.1754 was authored by Senator Susan Collins (R-Me) and, in addition to Cochran, is also cosponsored by John Boozman (R-Ark.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.).

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