LEWISTOWN - To increase the possibility of physician recruitment and interest at Lewistown Hospital, Kay Hamilton, hospital president and CEO, plans to start a family medicine residency program in May 2014.
"It began with the same thought process as the school of nursing," Hamilton said. "I was thinking about our difficulty recruiting family practice physicians, much like we had trouble finding enough registered nurses. Then I thought to myself, 'Why can't we do something like we did with the nursing issue?' We can find some type of program to get us residents."
Hamilton submitted an application in February to begin a rural track family medicine residency program, which would be one of 25 available programs in the country. It will provide six residents over a three year period, she said.
"The program is open to medical school graduates from all over the United States," Hamilton said. "They will have to declare their interest in family medicine as it applies specifically to rural areas. That's our niche and how, I believe, we'll get people interested."
The residency involves intense clinical training as well as classroom time, Hamilton said. As residents focus on family medicine, they'll be placed throughout the hospital, community clinics and Geisinger facilities.
Each resident will work a three-year term and the goal is to recruit from those in the program as there are openings and increased medical needs in the community, Hamilton said.
"It's just not easy to recruit doctors to our area," Hamilton said. "We have enough physicians right now, but we don't know going forward if we will or we won't. With the new healthcare reform act, and emphasis on primary care, we anticipate needing more physicians in the future."
The hospital plans to move forward with the program once its merger with Geisinger is complete, Hamilton said. Approval involves an audit and inspection of the hospital by the American College of Graduate Medical Education Residency Review Committee.
"If everything goes as planned, we'll begin recruiting residents in May 2014 and they'll begin the program in August 2014," Hamilton said. "We have to prepare for the future and strengthen our services for the community. We can do that with this program."