Due to a national shortage of primary care doctors, the federal government has invested in developing residency programs in neglected rural areas. In Delaware, the number of full-time primary care physicians declined 6 percent from 2013 to 2018, according to a University of Delaware study.
Both Delaware systems have chosen to focus on family medicine in their residency programs. The Bayhealth program will include six residents per year, and the Beebe program will include four residents per year.
HRSA awarded approximately $20 million in Rural Residency Planning and Development Program (RRPD) grants to recipients across 21 states. Beebe and Bayhealth were among 27 nationwide that will receive up to $750,000 over a three-year period to develop new rural residency programs while achieving accreditation through the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.
"These funds will significantly help us strengthen the primary care workforce in Delaware, particularly the central and southern parts of the state," said DHSS Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker, a board-certified family physician. "We need more primary care physicians to remain in practice and find ways to encourage new doctors, including those from minority and rural backgrounds, to choose primary care as their specialty."
The other pressure facing the health care industry is the high number of doctors set to retire in the coming years. In Kent County, for instance, 25 percent of physicians are 65 and older, compared with Sussex County (16 percent) and New Castle County (13 percent). Only 60 percent of primary care physicians in Kent County reported that they will be active in five years, compared to 70 percent in Sussex County and 78 percent in New Castle County.
"We are excited as Beebe embarks on another transformative journey and begins looking at providing medical education and training programs to doctors," said Beebe Medical Group Senior Vice President/CMO, Bobby Gulab, MD, MBA. "This will also allow us to keep more of these doctors in the area and continue to meet the needs of the community. I have no doubt Drs. James and Richard Beebe would have been very proud of the steps Beebe is taking to help our community and to provide medical education to doctors."