Update on Academic Medical Centers
HEALTH CARE TASK FORCE
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03:22 PM -- Update on Academic Medical Centers
Dr. M. Roy Wilson, the chancellor of the University of Colorado - Denver, described academic health centers and provided a handout to the committee (Attachment Z). He said that an academic health center is usually at a medical school and an associated hospital, but the key factor is the focus on research, education, and clinical services. In addition, Dr. Wilson gave an overview of how academic medical centers serve underserved communities and provide specialized care, such as burn centers. He described the shortage of health care workers worldwide and a study showing that 35 million lives were saved through advances that were facilitated by academic medical centers. Dr. Wilson described the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora and named several accomplishments of the medical center. Dr. Wilson discussed the economic impact of the medical center and research funding and the health care labor shortage in Colorado, especially in rural areas.
Dr. Wilson gave an overview of the Anschutz campus' role in providing continuing education. He said that the nursing shortage isn't just a shortage of nurses, but also a shortage of teachers who can provide training to new nurses. Dr. Wilson discussed the funding challenges that affect the campus. He said that state funding issues can affect accreditation of universities, the ability to retain faculty and staff, and the ability to serve medically needy populations. Dr. Wilson discussed rising tuition costs and student debt. He said that higher debt can influence the type of medicine that doctors will practice, and that higher salaries for specialists can compound the shortage of primary care physicians. Dr. Wilson said that expanding student enrollment cannot make up for the lack of state support. He described the recruitment of faculty away from the University of Colorado, and how universities, including other state institutions, can offer more secure funding for faculty that is less dependent on securing research grants.
Dr. Wilson stated the need for a new funding source to support the Anschutz campus, and that the certificates of participation were crucial for funding the facility's expansion. He said that the campus should be funded differently than other high education institutions. Representative Massey commented on creating incentives for rural health providers and the specialization of doctors. Dr. Wilson said that the disparity between primary and specialized care is more pronounced in the United States than in other countries. He said that there is no way to change the dynamic unless there is some redistribution from specialists to primary care practitioners, and stated that incentives need to be changed. Senator Foster discussed loan reimbursement programs for medical students who agree to serve rural areas. She also commented on the reduction of mental health beds at University Hospital. Dr. Wilson said that many federal programs that provide incentives to serve in rural areas have been reduced. He said that it is possible these programs could be revamped as part of federal health care reform efforts. He further discussed the role of academic medical centers in the health care labor supply and with regard to health care reform.
Senator Schwartz asked about the role of academic medical centers in reining in health care costs, and also about finding a way to identify a funding stream for the medical school. Dr. Wilson told the committee he would like the opportunity to share his opinions on cost containment. Dr. Wilson stated his hope that the public will realize the importance of the medical center and support it due to its unique mission and contribution. Representative Frangas asked about underserved areas and students, and about how to address the loss of mental health bed space. Dr. Wilson said that there is a shortage of mental health bed space and there are possibilities for expansion in the future. Dr. Wilson discussed how the lack of diversity in the student population affects the accreditation process and how the lack of state support makes it difficult to attract minority applicants who can get full scholarships to other schools.
Senator Boyd announced that the date for members to request draft legislation would be moved to Monday, September 14. The task force adjourned.