Bayhealth and Beebe Healthcare have each received $750,000 in federal grant funds from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the Health Resources and Services Administration, to develop rural residency programs.
The award comes at a time when the number of full-time equivalent primary care physicians providing direct patient care in Delaware is declining. It dropped about 6 percent from 2013 to 2018, according to a University of Delaware study of the primary care physician workforce. In 2018, there were 815 individual primary care physicians practicing in Delaware, down from 862 in 2013.
“These funds will significantly help us strengthen the primary care workforce in Delaware, particularly the central and southern parts of the state,” said Delaware Health and Social Services Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker. “We need more primary care physicians to remain in practice and find ways to encourage new doctors, including those from minority and rural backgrounds, to choose primary care as their specialty.”
Another concerning trend shows a declining percentage of primary care physicians expecting to be active in five years. “We are extremely grateful for the opportunities this funding provides for our state,” said Division of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “As demonstrated in Kent and Sussex counties, rural communities are more likely to have a shortage of health professionals. However, clinicians who train in rural settings are more likely to continue to practice there after they complete their residencies. This grant award will help us enhance the pool of long-term practicing physicians.”
The Rural Residency Planning and Development Program is part of a multi-year initiative by HRSA to expand the physician workforce in rural areas by developing new, sustainable residency programs in family medicine, internal medicine, and psychiatry. Rural residency programs often face challenges in securing sustainable financing and faculty support. The RRPD grant award funding will help recipients address these challenges.
Both Beebe and Bayhealth have chosen to focus on family medicine in their residency programs. The Bayhealth program will include six residents per year, and the Beebe program will include four residents per year.
“We are thrilled to have been awarded this grant from HRSA. This grant will be used to continue our promise to deliver the nation’s best healthcare here at home,” said Bayhealth President & CEO Terry M. Murphy, FACHE. “As we look toward our future at Bayhealth, our medical education programs are an investment not only in Bayhealth’s future, but in the future of each community we serve.”
“We are excited as Beebe embarks on another transformative journey and begins looking at providing medical education and training programs to doctors,” said Beebe Medical Group Senior Vice President/CMO Bobby Gulab, MD, MBA. “This will also allow us to keep more of these doctors in the area and continue to meet the needs of the community.”
Both Kent County – 2,069 patients per primary care physician – and Sussex County – 2,014 patients per physician – are above the 2,000-to-one ratio used by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration to designate shortage areas.