VALDOSTA — To combat the decrease of physicians and the increase in demand, the Hospital Authority of Valdosta and Lowndes County approved a new physician recruitment plan during a meeting Wednesday.
The recruitment plan includes benefits to incentivize more physicians coming to and staying in Valdosta/Lowndes County. One benefit in the plan is a guaranteed income for the first year of a new practice.
David Winkle, Hospital Authority general counsel, said physicians face an economic strain on getting a new practice going because of the uncertainty of income.
“Anyone in the health-care field will tell you that just because you see a patient today doesn’t mean you’re going to get paid today,” Winkle said. “You’re going to get paid maybe three months later.”
The recruitment plan would guarantee a new physician will make a certain income that first year of their practice. Winkle said the money is not a gift but a loan to the doctor that must be paid back as the doctor builds a practice.
The plan also allows for moving expenses for two types of doctors, he said. A doctor with an already existing practice at least 75 miles away from the community can receive moving assistance, and a doctor just out of school coming to start a first practice.
“We can assist those two types of doctors, and we can pay their cost of moving their personal effects, moving their practice, money for a start up and all the things that accompany starting a new business,” Winkle said.
He also said doctors straight out of school will be eligible for student loan assistance by paying their monthly payments for the first year of the practice.
Repayment by the physicians will be made during a three-year period, he said. Also, the physician will be required to practice in the community for those three years. This means the community will have a new physician for at least four years.
During the three years of repayment, the hospital can forgive one third of the loan if the physician has completed all of their requirements within the plan, Winkle said. If the physician fails to perform their requirements, the loan will be due in full.
Sam Allen, hospital authority chairman, said he is in favor of the recruitment plan and believes it will help prevent problems the hospital has had in the past.
“We found ourselves in a position just recently with the cardiac physicians that I think could have been avoided if we had this in place,” Allen said. “I think this is one caveat that will prevent that from happening in the future.”
Thomas Lynn is a government and education reporter for The Valdosta Daily Times. He can be reached at (229)244-3400 ext. 1256