The national agency that accredits graduate medical education programs is pressing LSU officials for information on their plans to revamp physician training programs.
The inquiry from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, called ACGME, came in response to publicized comments by LSU System Executive Vice President Frank Opelka about a redesign of LSU hospitals’ clinics, which would affect “Graduate Medical Education.” GME is the name for programs that train physicians.
LSU is in the process of implementing a plan that would move more LSU hospital patients and physician training programs to private hospitals. The plan is being implemented as LSU copes with a sudden reduction in federal Medicaid funding support in the current budget year that ends June 30.
Patricia M. Surdyk, ACGME’s executive director for institutional review, reminded LSU Health Sciences Center officials that any redesign of the physician training programs must occur under the agency’s oversight. She wrote that LSU had not provided timely information on the effort.
“I ask that you please consider this note as an informal request,” Surdyk wrote in an email, “for an update on what appears to be a situation that is likely requiring a great deal of planning on your part, but also, may necessitate deliberation by the ACGME through its Review Committees.”
Surdyk asked for a quick response that gave “at least some notion of the activities under way.”
Neither Surdyk nor other ACGME officials returned phone messages Wednesday.
Opelka and LSU Health Sciences Center Chancellor Larry Hollier said they have been in touch with ACGME but had nothing definitive to tell the agency, yet.
“We talked about how we were approaching this,” Opelka said “... and that we would follow with a plan.”
Opelka said LSU is looking at expanding existing agreements with private hospitals that already house “Graduate Medical Education” program activity. LSU also is exploring a possible affiliation between LSU and Lafayette General Medical Center, where no affiliation exists today, he said.
Hollier said both scenarios — expansion of existing agreements and new affiliations — would prompt additional ACGME scrutiny. Detailed documentation would be required by the accrediting agency to demonstrate the impact such proposals would have on physician training.
“I would expect they would want to come down and look it over,” Hollier said.
The ACGME accreditation is important to the existence of graduate medical education programs as well as their reputation when medical school graduates look for places to do their physician specialty training.
Opelka has told the LSU Board of Supervisors and the Louisiana Legislature’s health oversight committees that care must be taken to prevent any of the physician training programs from being put on probation by ACGME. The agency oversees every facet of physician training for sufficiency, including whether the hospital where programs are based have the commitment and resources to provide the appropriate training environment. The ACGME also oversees the programs to ensure that there is a sufficient volume of patients and looks at the caliber of physician supervision over those in training.
“I know you are aware that a redesign of GME must occur under the oversight of the appropriate Review Committees, both specialty-specific and institutional,” Surdyk wrote.
Hollier said the ACGME’s interest is not unexpected. “They wanted to tell us we needed to communicate those plans with them. Of course, we knew that,” he said. “I think they were being proactive about it.”
Hollier said the plans should be going to ACGME in the next six weeks or so.