House passes Rep. Haler’s bill to help ease doctor shortages in rural areas
“This bill is a good step in ensuring all Washingtonians have access to primary care,” says Haler
Legislation passed the Washington State House of Representatives today that would help hospitals and clinics to develop and expand family medicine residency programs around the state, specifically targeting underserved areas.
Rep. Larry Haler, R-Richland and assistant ranking Republican on the House Higher Education Committee, sponsored the measure after working with stakeholders and the medical community for the last two years. He called today's vote in the House an exciting victory for the current and future health of residents in rural and underserved areas, but cautioned more work needs to be done.
“We have a shortage of family medicine practitioners in certain parts of the state and that shortage is going to continue to get worse unless something is done,” said Haler. “We know that where a physician does their residency is one of the major factors in determining where they end up practicing. It only makes sense to expand our current residency programs or create new ones specifically targeting these underserved regions. This bill is a good step in ensuring all Washingtonians have access to primary care.”
House Bill 1485 would expand the medical schools that participate in the Family Medicine Residency Network (FMRN) to include the Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences in Yakima and would also include future accredited medical schools. It would require the schools to prioritize future residencies for shortage areas. Haler's bill would also re-establish the Family Medicine Education Advisory Board and has an accountability measure that requires regular reporting.
“This isn't the end of my efforts to bring adequate numbers of primary care physicians to rural Washington and underserved areas,” said Haler. “More needs to be done. I'll continue to work closely with the medical and higher education communities on this issue to ensure our citizens have ample opportunity to have their health care needs met now and in the future.”
Haler's bill passed the House unanimously 98-0 and now moves to the Senate for further consideration.
The 105-day 2015 legislative session is scheduled to end April 26.
###Washington State House Republican Communications