BAYONET POINT — To shore up the nation's thinning ranks of primary care physicians and keep more of them in Pasco, Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point has announced plans to start its first residency program.
The hospital was recently approved by the American Osteopathic Association for an internal medicine residency program, with the first batch of six doctors to begin July 2014. Bayonet Point will be the first hospital in Pasco County to have a residency program, which represents a $1 million investment, said Ava Fulbright, vice president of Graduate Medical Education for HCA West Florida.
The hospital had to submit an application to the association, where it listed how it plans to train residents, addressing such topics as curriculum, rotation schedules and leadership. Residents spend three years practicing in an office environment, working shifts in the emergency room and doing rotations with various specialists.
"Our program will be dedicated to providing the highest-quality graduate medical education for those who come to Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point from the nation's medical schools," hospital chief executive Shayne George said.
Plans also include adding residency programs in general surgery and internal medicine for allopathic physicians, or those who have earned an M.D. Osteopaths earn a D.O. and have a holistic approach to medicine. Both are equally qualified to practice medicine.
The plans began in 2012 when HCA, the Nashville-based for-profit chain that is Bayonet Point's parent company, announced it would add residency programs to a number of hospitals across Florida, including Oak Hill Hospital in Spring Hill. Within five years, HCA officials said they expected to have 200 to 300 residents between the hospitals.
Officials hoped to expand the program to Brandon Regional Hospital and Blake Medical Center in Bradenton in July 2015, with plans to grow to another 200 to 300 residents.
HCA's goal is to create additional residency slots at hospitals in southeast Florida and the Orlando area. Eventually, still more residencies could come online locally, including at the Medical Center of Trinity.
The benefits to the hospital and community are many, Fulbright said.
"Any time you have residents training in a hospital it means there is more care readily available 24/7/365," she said. "It also creates a more stimulating environment for the existing medical staff in that they are engaged in their training and asked challenging questions. The teaching faculty is encouraged to keep up on the most current medical changes and best practices through journals and conferences."
That's not news to Dr. Rao Musunuru, a longtime cardiologist at the hospital's heart institute.
"I always learn more when I teach," said Musunuru, who over the years has provided continuing education for heart specialists.
He said the program will help Pasco and the Tampa Bay area bolster its ranks of primary care doctors, which are predicted to be in short supply as health care reform creates more insured patients and the population of aging baby boomers continues to swell.
The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that in 2015 the country will have a shortage of 62,900 primary care doctors. That number will more than double by 2025.
Even without the health care law, which will add 30 million insured patients next year, the shortfall of doctors in 2025 would exceed 100,000.
"They'll have ties to Florida, and the chances are greater they will hang around," said Musunuru, who did his residency in New York because his brother-in-law lived there.
And as doctors like Musunuru, 59, prepare to retire, more will be needed to replace them.
"These young kids don't want to work 60 or 70 hours a week," he said.
Researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report.