A $540,000 federal grant will enable Humboldt General Hospital to create a residency program in Humboldt County with the goal of increasing the number of family physicians training and practicing in the United States.
Humboldt General Hospital CEO/Administrator Jim Parrish said the three-year grant also will help HGH by welcoming a steady flow of second- and third-year residents who will train and work at the local facility, located at 118 E. Haskell Street in Winnemucca.
The planning grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration was funded as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Humboldt General received notification of the award in June of this year.
Humboldt General will use the funding to prepare to launch the residency program by providing education for its staff, establishing a core set of policies and procedures, and paying for consultants who will help navigate hospital officials through this planning phase.
Humboldt General Hospital CEO/Administrator Jim Parrish, who was instrumental in preparing the grant proposal, said the hospital is excited to kick off this preparation phase in order to welcome residents to this community in two years.
"Humboldt General Hospital is looking to establish an outstanding Family Medicine residency program," he said. "The majority of our graduates will go on to primary care practice, so this award will help prepare them for their future careers."
Parrish added, "Of course, we are hoping that we can encourage one or two of the physicians to stay in Winnemucca and practice here."
Parrish said the federal grant is in response to the national and regional shortage of primary care physicians. "These shortages are projected to worsen significantly over the next several years as older doctors retire and fewer medical school graduates enter primary care fields," explained Parrish.
Like many states, Nevada is feeling the effects of the shortage of primary care providers. Most rural counties have been designated as medically underserved or health professional shortage areas. Currently, there are very few primary care residency opportunities outside of Reno and Las Vegas.
"Humboldt General Hospital is committed to addressing these challenges by helping to augment a primary care workforce trained to meet the needs of both urban and rural populations," said Parrish, "and we are hopeful that we will be able to advance the health of our community at the same time."
Parrish said resident physicians not only will provide additional family care opportunities for local residents, but physicians may also be put to work at an indigent clinic, or in the hospital itself caring for inpatients or taking call at night.
For its part, the hospital will provide the resident physicians with facilities to practice, oversight from area physicians and the opportunity to practice their skills in a rural family practice location.
The residency program will involve two second-year residents and two third-year residents. Before officials can throw out the welcome mat, however, they will need to achieve accreditation through the American Academy of Family Practice.
"That's what this planning phase is for," said Parrish, "to help us get everything in place so that we can be given the go-ahead."
While Parrish said graduates do not have to remain in a rural practice area, he said graduates will be encouraged to remain and practice in Nevada.
"We know that primary care is associated with better health outcomes, lower health care costs, and greater equity in health," said Parrish. "We are thrilled about what this program will bring to the State of Nevada and to Humboldt County as we strive to address medically underserved areas, and projected primary care workforce shortages."
The residency program will welcome its first residents in July 2013.
For more information on the rural residency planning grant that has been awarded to Humboldt General Hospital, please contact CEO/Administrator Jim Parrish at (775) 623-5222, ext. 123.