July 8, 2014 at 1:00 am

Detroit area gets $8M for doctor training

Detroit — Metro Detroit needs more doctors to care for residents who’ve signed up for health care insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and federal grants announced Monday totaling about $8 million will train 85 physicians,said local health officials.

The Detroit Wayne County Health Authority was awarded the grant to train the doctors, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration.

The Michigan grants are part of $83.4 million announced by Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell for primary care residency programs in 60 Teaching Health Centers across the nation.

The awards demonstrate “the continued growth of this program to help prepare even more physicians to provide primary care in communities across the country,” Burwell said in announcing the grants.

The funding is critical to increase access to health care for thousands of Metro Detroit residents who are signing up for Michigan’s Medicaid expansion. Enrollment started April 1 for the Healthy Michigan Plan, and about 300,000 residents signed up in the first 11 weeks of the program. State officials expect 320,000 to enroll in the first year, and as many as half a million over the next several years.

The Detroit Wayne County Health Authority received six grants totaling $7.95 million, with the largest — $2.25 million — earmarked for residency programs to train primary care physicians. The second largest grant, $2.1 million, will go to increase the number of pediatricians in Detroit and Wayne County. Additional grants will support physicians in psychiatry, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology and geriatric medicine.

Flint’s Hamilton Community Health Network was the only other Michigan health agency awarded a grant; it received $900,000 to train family practice doctors.

Created by the Affordable Care Act, the Teaching Health Center program allows doctors to train for careers in family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry, geriatrics, and general dentistry.

Nationwide, the funds will help train more than 550 residents during the 2014-15 academic year, an increase of more than 200 from 2012-13.

It will allow the health authority to hire doctors who will work at its community-based public health clinics. The authority is partnering with Michigan State University, which will provide new doctors for the authority’s residency programs.

“By the end of next year, we are training 85 residents in all of the medical specialties,” said Chris Allen, CEO of the Detroit Wayne County Health Authority. “We are very excited about the opportunity to train physicians that will ultimately practice in Detroit and Wayne County.”

The money to train Wayne County doctors could help decrease the number of Detroit babies who die before their first birthday. Detroit has the highest infant mortality rate in the nation, according to federal data. A Detroit News study found that more children 18 or younger die in Detroit than in any city its size or larger in the United States. Experts blame the city’s high child death rate, in part, on limited access to primary health care.

The physicians hired to work at Detroit and Wayne County health clinics will receive specialized training while caring for patients, according Martin Kramer, communications director for the Health Resources and Services Administration, part of the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

“These grants help folks in both rural and urban settings get access to health care while the physicians are being trained in a public health setting,” Kramer said Monday.