Connecticut officials, concerned that graduates of its medical schools are fleeing the state, are looking for ways to encourage those freshly minted doctors to remain.
State Rep. Prasad Srinivasin, a board-certified allergist and the only physician in the General Assembly, said he's worried Connecticut is losing both home-grown and out-of-state medical students to other states where there may be more doctor-friendly medical malpractice laws and affordable costs of living.
Srinivasin recently had firsthand experience with the problem when he tried to hire a new allergist at his practice. "I just couldn't recruit anyone to come to Connecticut," he said.
The Republican lawmaker has unsuccessfully pushed for changes to the state's medical malpractice laws since he was elected five years ago. At the same time, Srinivasin has opposed proposals he and other doctors contend will exacerbate the problem, including a bill last year that extended the statute of limitations in medical malpractice cases filed on behalf of minors.
While proponents argued Connecticut's current law is a national outlier and harms children, the Connecticut State Medical Society said the proposed legislation, which died due to inaction in the House of Representatives last session, would increase already high medical malpractice insurance rates.
Dr. Robert Russo, past president of the medical society, told state lawmakers last year the bill was "not the answer to fixing our broken tort system and will only further serve as an impediment to attracting and retaining physicians." He urged the General Assembly to work with the medical community to look at alternatives to the current system, such as courts that only handle health matters and alternative dispute resolution processes.
It appears that discussion could happen early next year.
House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz, likely the new Speaker of the House if Democrats retain control of the chamber, told The Associated Press he and other legislators plan to convene a working group of experts in early January. The task force will examine various facets of doctor retention and ways to help the industry.
"We will come out with a package, as far as legislation, to talk about encouraging growth in the medical communities, streamlining some of the stuff that we do," he said. "So it will be a pretty comprehensive package."
Connecticut retained only 19.1 percent of its medical school graduates in 2014, according to a report from the Association of American Medical College. That won it a rank of 41 among the 50 states.
The retention figure is better - 34.7 percent - for medical school graduate who complete residency in the state. And it rises to 51.8 percent for graduates who attended school and completed residency in Connecticut.
All those state figures are below the national average.
Connecticut has three medical schools: at the University of Connecticut, Yale University and Quinnipiac University, which will graduate its first class in 2017. The state graduates about 200 medical school students annually, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
The low retention figures for those graduates come as Connecticut and other states show signs of physician shortages. Earlier this year, the Association of American Medical College projected a national shortage ranging between 61,700 and 94,700 by 2025, with significant deficiencies among many surgical specialties.
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