NASHVILLE – State Senator Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville) this week praised Governor Bill Lee for including funds in the state’s 2019-2020 budget to expand the number of medical residencies for primary care doctors in Tennessee. In his State of the State / Budget Address on Monday, Gov. Lee called for $8.6 million in funding for graduate medical education at Tennessee’s medical schools. Lee’s proposal also calls for critical incentive programs that provide financial support to physicians who commit to living and working in the state’s rural communities.
“This is tremendous news,” said Sen. Briggs, who is sponsoring legislation in the Tennessee General Assembly to fund additional residencies. “These funds will help provide more primary care residents, especially in Tennessee’s underserved communities where there is an urgent need for more physicians. Doctors are more likely to permanently live and work close to where they receive residency training. This legislation will help provide care in these underserved communities and will hopefully result in physicians setting up long-term practices there.”
Seventy-nine percent of the state’s primary care physicians live in the 12 most populated or affluent counties in Tennessee. Twenty-seven rural counties are below the adequate physician to population ratio. Even more concerning is the age of physicians currently practicing in these counties, with 13 of them having 50 percent or more of primary care doctors who are age 60 or older.
“As these physicians retire, we need young doctors who will set up practices in these communities,” added Briggs, who is a physician. “We have seven counties where 100 percent of the primary care physicians are age 61 or older and that is very alarming as we look to the future of healthcare in these communities.”
The current workforce projections show Tennessee with a shortage of 1,050 doctors by 2025.
“Access to health care is not only vital to the welfare of citizens living in these communities, it is essential to facilitate sustainable economic and community development in Tennessee. I appreciate the Governor’s attention to this need and look forward to working with him to pass this proposal,” Briggs concluded.