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When Disaster Strikes a Residency Program

AHLA Connections

December 2008

When a disaster such as a hurricane or flood temporarily shuts down a teaching hospital it wreaks havoc on residency programs as the hospital works to train continuously its residents and struggles to rebuild its program. Loss of a residency program, even temporarily, can put a hospital in the red as its census lowers, its Graduate Medical Education (GME) funding decreases, and its medical professionals relocate while it still needs to cover residency training expenses.[1] Residents may be sent to another part of the country. Teaching hospitals produce the majority of physicians providing medical services in their communities; so when physicians leave an area due to a disaster, the residency program is crucial for a community to rebuild its health system.[2]

On August 19, 2008, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published its final rules on Payments for Graduate Medical Education for Affiliated Teaching Hospitals in Certain Emergency Situations. While HHS is commended for responding to teaching hospitals’ needs in Louisiana and Texas by issuing interim fi nal rules in 2006 and in 2007 immediately effective retroactive to August 29, 2005, the agency may not have provided enough timely relief to hospitals struggling to maintain and rebuild their residency programs. This article describes the effect of a disaster on residency programs, examines CMS’ response, and highlights policy considerations for GME funding for residency programs affected by disasters.

Click here to view the full article.

[1] New Orleans Institutions Face Post Katrina Challenges, AAMC Reporter (Mar. 2006).
[2] Id.

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