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Brown does not restore money for medical residencies

May 11, 2017

Gov. Jerry Brown’s revised budget plan released Thursday does not restore $33 million for medical residencies in areas facing significant doctor shortages, disappointing state lawmakers and doctors' groups. 

Last year’s budget added $100 million over three years to the Song-Brown Workforce Training Program, which helps pay for doctor training in underserved areas such as East Los Angeles and the Inland Empire. Brown removed this year's $33 million allocation in his January budget, prompting calls from State Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) and others to restore it in the May revision.

The decision not to put the money back into the budget does not mean the governor doesn't support the idea of fighting the doctor shortage, said state Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer.

"It was just a question of the affordability," he said, noting that the budget doesn't anticipate enough revenue to fully fund everyone's priorities.

The Council on Graduate Medical Education estimates that one-third of California’s counties have fewer doctors than they need. Physicians' groups say new doctors are more likely to practice near where they do their residencies after medical school.

"We can be training more medical students, but if they’re doing residencies in other parts of the country, it’s much less likely they will come back to California," said Sen. Pan. "Our physician supply is impacted when we don’t have enough residency training programs."

It can take community clinics as long as a year to fill a spot for a primary care doctor, said State Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), chair of the senate health committee.

It will be hard to get the money back in the budget, he said, because there’s a lot of competition for state dollars.

"There’s a lot of mouths to be fed," said Hernandez. "And unfortunately, it just seems like when it comes to poor people, we seem to have the least amount of resources for them."