One of WHA’s top priorities is ensuring an adequate supply of physicians now and in the future to care for Wisconsin communities. A public policy solution created by WHA and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Graduate Medical Education (DHS GME) matching grant program, is making headway at addressing critical physician shortages, but as a recently released report by the Wisconsin Policy Forum notes, the progress must accelerate and continue.
The Forum’s report assesses statewide coverage by Wisconsin’s 759 psychiatrists. The report notes there is significant regional variation, with the worst shortages experienced by counties in the northern half of the state: “Twenty of Wisconsin’s 72 counties have no practicing psychiatrists and 10 more counties have less than one full-time equivalent psychiatrist because they share one with multiple counties.”
WHA Chief Medical Officer Chuck Shabino, MD, notes the value of the GME grants in addressing the issue.
“These grants are targeted at specialties with the worst shortages, like psychiatry, and preference is given to rural applicants where the shortages have a great impact,” Shabino said. “Comparing shortage maps to WHA’s GME map demonstrates growth is occurring in areas of greatest shortage.”
With the support of DHS GME grants, new Medical College of Wisconsin psychiatry residency programs in northeastern and central Wisconsin opened in 2017, and UW Hospitals and Clinics psychiatry rural residency training tracks expanded to Ashland and other rural counties in 2014.
“Creating psychiatric residencies in rural and underserved areas not only increases the number of psychiatrists in the pipeline, it increases the likelihood those residents will stay and practice in rural Wisconsin,” notes Ann Zenk, WHA Vice President of Workforce and Clinical Practice. She added, “The new and expanded programs will result in 37 additional physicians enrolled in Wisconsin-based psychiatry residency and addiction fellowship programs by July 2020. We know that Wisconsin students who attend a Wisconsin medical school and complete a Wisconsin residency are 86% more likely to remain in Wisconsin to practice.”
“It is rewarding to see the GME grant program, a public-private partnership crafted between Wisconsin hospitals and state policymakers, moving forward toward fulfillment of our mutual objectives of expanding the number of primary care physicians, psychiatrists, and other needed physicians in Wisconsin,” said WHA President/CEO Eric Borgerding.
The WHA-backed DHS GME program is gaining traction, but with 55 of 72 Wisconsin counties having a psychiatrist shortage and 113 of Wisconsin’s psychiatrists 65 or older, sustained and accelerated support is needed to fill and grow Wisconsin’s psychiatrist pipeline.