Spend more to attract other doctors, says Alaska commission

Posted: Thursday, December 17, 2009

ANCHORAGE - A state commission concluded Alaska needs to invest more money to train new doctors and lure other doctors to the state to ease a shortage of primary care physicians.

Among other things, the Alaska Health Care Commission recommends adding four students per year to the medical program operated by the University of Alaska Anchorage and the University of Washington.

The Anchorage Daily News reported the recommendations will go next month to the Legislature.

A pending bill calls for paying doctors, nurses or specified other health workers incentives to take certain jobs in Alaska. Doctors could get from $35,000 to $47,000, depending on the position.

Exactly how many primary care physicians Alaska needs isn't clear, but it's certain the state needs more, said Dr. Ward Hurlburt, chief medical officer for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and chairman of commission.

Adding four students annually to the joint medical school program would increase each class from 20 to 24 students. The state pays about $50,000 per student to UW for each of the second, third and fourth years of their schooling. The first year is spent at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

The commission also recommends starting up three new residency programs to turn medical school graduates into fully qualified psychiatrists, pediatricians and primary care internists. The cost is unknown, but the state pays $2 million per year to support Alaska's only full-fledged residency program, Alaska Family Medicine Residency.

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