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Primary Care Teaching Centers Mooted to Boost Work Force

Community health centers could offer residencies and address staffing crisis

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 16 (HealthDay News) -- A system of primary care teaching health centers within expanded community health centers could help solve the current staffing crisis and boost the number of physicians working in underserved areas, according to a proposal published online Dec. 14 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Richard E. Rieselbach, M.D., and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, write that a short-term strategy to tackle the primary care work force crisis in underserved areas is the missing link in the current raft of health reform measures.

The researchers note that expanding community health centers to become teaching centers where residents could undergo their final year of training would immediately increase clinical capacity at the community health center level. Additionally, offering National Health Services Corp debt repayment to primary care residents who go on to work in underserved areas would improve access to physicians in areas where it is needed.

"Teaching health centers provide an optimal training environment for graduate medical education, given their close faculty supervision and the emphasis on patient-centered care, and represent the future of high-quality medical practice," the authors write. "Primary care residents trained in this setting could immediately increase community health center clinical capacity. In addition, many of the graduates would provide access to low-cost primary care services for the projected increased number of underserved patients."

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