June 7, 2012
Health and Human Services
OKLAHOMA CITY – Gov. Mary Fallin on Wednesday signed two measures to increase the number of doctors in underserved areas.
House Bill 3058 creates a new residency training program, which will be affiliated with the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. Senate Bill 1280 provides $3.08 million to fund the program.
Howard Barnett, president of Oklahoma State University-Tulsa and the OSU Center for Health Sciences, said OSU plans to create 45 to 50 residencies a year. All will be primary-care residencies in hospitals outside Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
Fallin said 64 of the sate's 77 counties have health-care professional shortages. Oklahoma ranks 49th in the nation in the number of primary-care physicians for its population, she said.
"This will make sure that no matter what part of the state of Oklahoma a person may live in, now we are going to have more primary-care physicians and rural residency programs, especially out in those rural and underserved areas, and it will help us more meet the needs of our fellow Oklahomans with health-care delivery," Fallin said during a ceremony to sign the bills.
Lack of access to care is a big factor in the state's health indicator outcomes, in which the state ranks 48th in the nation, she said. Stephanie Letney, a second-year medical student at the OSU School of Osteopathic Medicine, said she was concerned that class sizes were increasing but the number of residencies available had not kept up.
She said residencies provide training for those wishing to enter the medical profession. Janel H. McMillin, a third-year OSU med student, said she hopes to return to a rural area to practice medicine. She is from Fort Gibson.
McMillin said there is a lot of competition among medical students to obtain residencies.
Fallin also signed Senate Bill 1969, which transfers the bulk of the Economic Development Generating Excellence Fund to another fund to pay for a backlog of endowed professorships.
The EDGE Fund, created under the administration of former Gov. Brad Henry, was used to promote high-tech research and development.
House Appropriations and Budget Chairman Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, said about $140 million will go to match the private donations for the endowed professors program.
The program has a backlog of about $280 million that needs to be matched. Officials say it is used to attract top quality faculty and researchers to the state.
An estimated $12.5 million will be used to honor existing commitments in the EDGE Program, Sears said.
The balance of the funds, about $7 million, will go to the Quick Action Closing Fund, Sears said.
The Quick Action Closing Fund is a business recruitment account authorized last year but never funded.
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