Lawmakers address docs-in-training

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING --  LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport Chancellor Dr. Robert. Barish, left, leans forward to answer a question as the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget continued hearings Thursday on financial problems facing state agencies. LSU System President William Jenkins, center, background,  and LSU HSC Shreveport Vice Chancellor Dr. Hugh Mighty, right, listen.
Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport Chancellor Dr. Robert. Barish, left, leans forward to answer a question as the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget continued hearings Thursday on financial problems facing state agencies. LSU System President William Jenkins, center, background, and LSU HSC Shreveport Vice Chancellor Dr. Hugh Mighty, right, listen.

Legislators sought assurances Thursday that downsizing of LSU hospitals and their medical offerings would not negatively affect medical school enrollment, physician training programs and their accreditation.

Members of the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget said they had heard from worried constituents whose children are deciding about medical school and whether to stay in Louisiana for medical training.

Among the budget woes and uncertainty, legislators said they are getting a lot of questions and have concerns of their own because 70 percent of those physicians who train in Louisiana stay here.

State Sen. Sherri Buffington, R-Keithville, said the numbers declined last time there was a “significant budget crisis,” thereby aggravating a Louisiana physician shortage.

“If there’s anything that drives up (health care) costs, it’s a workforce shortage,” she said.

State Rep. Roy Burrell, D-Shreveport, said his son is finishing his residency at LSU Health Science Center in Shreveport with one more year to go.

He wondered if his son would be able to complete the training program there “before anything unravels.”

LSU Health Science Center Shreveport Chancellor Dr. Robert Barish tried to reassure legislators, noting that all of the residency programs under his oversight are fully accredited.

He said whether there would be an impact on those interested in doing their training through LSU would not be seen until March.

Any move of residency programs outside LSU hospitals would require approval of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education to ensure that standards are being met, Barish said.

Barish said he has not seen any change so far in medical school students opting to transfer to other institutions.

Barish oversees LSU hospitals and medical education programs in Shreveport, Monroe and Pineville.

The budget panel has yet to hear from LSU system Executive Vice President Dr. Frank Opelka, who is overseeing changes being made in the seven south Louisiana hospitals that are under the umbrella of the Health Care Services Division.

Budget committee members also pressed for details on the system’s new health care model, which relies more on private hospitals for traditional public hospital care for the poor and medical education training.