Las Vegas’ critical doctor shortage could finally get some relief.
MountainView Hospital and University of Nevada School of Medicine officials said Thursday they will work to create 150 residency slots for medical-school graduates in the valley over a five-year period, starting as soon as July 2016.
The residencies would be based at MountainView, a northwest Las Vegas facility owned by HCA, a for-profit hospital chain based in Nashville, Tenn.
Preliminary talks have focused on training programs for internal and family medicine, geriatrics, general surgery, urology, neurology and other, unspecified subspecialties.
The programs would boost the number of local graduate medical education positions to 380. Officials did not say how much they would cost.
In a news release, Gov. Brian Sandoval said the university-MountainView partnership is “commendable,” while Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said it’s a “giant step toward our long-awaited goal of establishing an expanded, quality (graduate medical education) program in Nevada.”
“We want to help grow the pipeline of new physicians, and we want them to stay in our community,” MountainView CEO Chris Mowan said.
Residencies provide up to seven years of on-the-job training, and Medicare funds most of the positions, spending $9.5 billion a year for 94,000 residency slots, according to The Wall Street Journal. Medicaid, hospitals and other sources pay for another 10,000 positions.
Medical-school graduates must go through a program before they practice medicine, and graduates usually stay to work, at least initially, in the city where they train.
Nevada, however, has a dearth of slots. Faced with few options locally, medical-school graduates often head elsewhere for that training and don’t come back.
Across the U.S., there were roughly 37 medical residents and fellows per 100,000 people by the end of 2011, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
In Nevada, there were just 10 per 100,000, ranking 46th in the country.
There is a shortage of physicians nationally, but Nevada has it worse than almost every other state, with one of the lowest shares of doctors and nurses in the country.
The local shortfall, which dates back years, causes months-long wait times for appointments, dents the valley’s reputation as a quality place to live and crimps the economy, as many Southern Nevadans head to Southern California and elsewhere for health care.
As measured by the number of physicians for every 100,000 residents, Nevada is severely short on both generalists and specialists, including family practice doctors (46th-lowest rate in the country), pediatricians (46th) and orthopedic surgeons (51st), according to University of Nevada School of Medicine researchers.
Nevada’s highest-ranked fields include anesthesiology (21st in the country) and plastic surgery (27th).
Doctors and policy researchers blame the shortage on several factors, including the paltry number of residencies; Las Vegas’ once-booming population, which grew too fast for doctors to keep pace; low levels of government funding for medical education; the lack of a four-year, M.D.-granting medical school based in Las Vegas; and Las Vegas’ reputation as a gambling and party town with bad schools, which makes it hard to lure doctors here.