Kaiser to launch family medicine residency program

[caption id="attachment_27993" align="alignright" width="360"] Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa Medical Center (credit: TLCD Architecture)[/caption]

SANTA ROSA -- In an effort to address a long anticipated shortage of primary care physicians in Sonoma County, Kaiser Permanente’s Santa Rosa Medical Center will launch a family medicine residency program aimed at both recruiting and retaining doctors to the region.

While Kaiser runs numerous residency programs, the latest effort in Sonoma County is the first family medicine residency program in Northern California for the Oakland-based HMO, according to Dr. Walt Mills, who will be the program’s director.

With an estimated 22 percent of the county’s primary care physicians expected to retire and another 6 to 8 percent planning on leaving the area, the issue has become critical if Sonoma County is to maintain a comparatively robust physician community, said Dr. Mills.

“Primary care in the future is going to be family medicine. Everybody recognizes that,” Dr. Mills said. “We need to have a strong primary care foundation."

Kaiser’s new three-year residency program will train six physicians a year. Currently, Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa’s three-year family medicine residency program, an affiliate of UCSF, trains 36 physicians annually, with 12 in each class. Sutter’s program also works in conjunction with the Santa Rosa Community Health Centers, where residents typically focus on outpatient care.

By 2017, the two programs combined will graduate 18 physicians each year. The first group of residents is expected to enter Kaiser’s program in July 2014. It will cost about $250,000 per resident per year to train, Dr. Mills said.

The latest effort by Kaiser to secure physicians mirrors other efforts that have taken shape throughout the county, as providers adapt to the primary care physician shortage spurred in part by health care reform.

Last year, Santa Rosa Community Health Centers become one of eight health centers in the country to launch a nurse practitioner residency program, with similar stated goals of being able to provide primary care to as many residents as possible.

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