2012-02-24 / Top Stories

SJEH Selected To Receive 24 Residencies

A new law pushed through the US Senate with the help of Senator Charles Schumer allows for Medicare to fund additional resident physician positions at New York area hospitals, one of which includes Rockaway’s own St. John’s Episcopal Hospital.

The funding will provide the hospital with 24 resident doctors, which Schumer says will help the St. John’s Bottom Line and fight against the looming crisis of doctor shortages at New York hospitals. Federal law limits the number of Medicare-funded resident slots at hospitals across the country, but Far Rockaway became eligible for additional slots following recent hospital closures in New York. The slots will allow Medicare to fund additional physicians to train at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital. In the next round of closed slot awards, the hospital plans to seek additional slots and believes they meet the criteria and have the high demand for additional positions.

“Ensuring that we have talented and capable physicians at hospitals across the state is essential to providing quality health care,” said Schumer. “This is going to be a big boost to St. John’s Episcopal Hospital medical education program and its bottom line – and will help combat the growing doctor shortage problem. I look forward to working closely with the hospital to help Queens and Nassau provide even more training opportunities for today’s residents and tomorrow’s health experts.”

The announcement was made this week with Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder who represents parts of Rockaway in the New York State Senate.

“I want to thank Senator Schumer for his leadership and advocacy in securing new funding to establish additional resident physician positions at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital,” said Goldfeder. “It is essential that St. John’s is able to attract and retain well trained doctors who can provide quality healthcare to the people of the Rockaways. St. John’s continues to make significant improvements and the addition of new resident physicians will reassure parents and families in Rockaway and southern Queens that quality healthcare is not too far away.”

St. John’s Episcopal Hospital’s Chief Executive Officer Nelson E. Toebbe was excited to hear the news.

“This will provide an opportunity to augment our current residency allocation of 136 positions and enable the Hospital to grow programs in psychiatry and emergency medicine and improve the quality of its current residency program offerings in dermatology, family practice, internal medicine, obstetrics/ gynecology, ophthalmology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, surgery, and podiatry,” Toebbe said. “We appreciate Senator Schumer’s efforts to address the shortage of physicians and its serious impact upon the health of the residents of Queens and Nassau Counties.”

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently awarded New York teaching hospitals increases to their Medicare direct graduate medical education (GME) and indirect medical education (IME) funding, known as “slots,” due to the passage of the Affordable Care Act passed of 2010. Part of the goal of the act is to help areas such as Far Rockaway retain doctors in the areas in which they complete their residency.

The Affordable Care Act included an important provision that established a process to permanently preserve the Medicare funded residency slots from teaching hospitals that close. Previously, slots from closed hospitals could not be “returned’ to the pool to be distributed to hospitals training residents over their Medicare allotted cap. To remedy this, the Affordable Care Act directed CMS to create a pool based on the number of Medicare slots associated with the closed teaching hospitals’ direct GME and IME caps. This pool of direct GME and IME slots was to be redistributed, giving priority to hospitals located in the same or contiguous core-based statistical area as the closed hospital, and that met other criteria. As a result, St. John’s Hospital will receive new medical education funding and ensure that the Queens teaching slots are not lost to other states.

Medical schools and teaching hospitals are also major economic engines for their communities and the national economy. A recent study conducted by the Association of American Medical Colleges found that accredited medical schools, teaching hospitals and health systems employed over 1,861,549 individuals and generated $512.3 billion in 2008. New York medical schools and teaching hospitals had the largest effect in dollars, with more than $69 billion generated.

Previously, federal Medicare law placed an outdated cap on the number of residents New York hospitals and hospitals across the country are able to train without being penalized millions in Medicare funding. In 1997, the Balanced Budget Act froze the number of residents that a hospital could claim Medicare payment for, based on the number of residents that each hospital employed in 1996 and the cap has not changed since despite dramatic growth in the nation’s population. The Affordable Care Act created a process to redistribute slots from closed hospitals, a first step to training more physicians and resulting in St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway securing the additional slots that they received today.

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