Sky Lakes partnership is getting Medicare funding for more physician residents

Sky Lakes partnership is getting Medicare funding for more physician residents

By:  Jerry Howard

WASHINGTON, D.C. & KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. -- A medical program involving Sky Lakes Medical Center will get physician resident training positions from Medicare funding.

Oregon's U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley this week announced that Cascades East Family Medicine Residency Program will receive an equivalent to about three additional physician resident training slots in July.

The Cascades East Family Medicine Residency Program is a partnership between Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and Sky Lakes Medical Center in Klamath Falls.  The Program says it has nine residents per year, with a total of 25 medical residents.  It says while all three years of medical residency training occur in Klamath Falls, three to four months of the three year residency are spent in other Oregon communities, including three weeks in Medford for NICU, four weeks in Portland for inpatient pediatrics, four weeks of ICU in either Bend or Klamath Falls, and five weeks in one of the Program's "frontier communities" of John Day, Enterprise and Lakeview.

The medical residency program says it trains residents to become family medicine physicians who provide comprehensive care to their patients.

"Training more medical residents right here in Klamath Falls is a promising sign of progress toward improving access to primary care and mental health services in the region, where providers have been stretched to a breaking point," said Wyden, who as chair of the Senate Finance Committee is leading bipartisan legislation to address the nationwide mental health crisis.  "I have heard loud and clear from health care providers at meetings in Klamath Falls about how the serious lack of stable health care workforce-especially mental health providers-is hurting quality of life in this part of rural Oregon. I am all in to fight for expanded health care in rural communities all over the state, so that zip code no longer undermines any Oregonian's access to quality care."

"It is essential for Oregonians in all corners of the state to have access to the resources they need to be safe and healthy, which is why it is critical that we increase the number of primary care and mental health care providers in rural areas," Merkley said. "This funding to expand the number of physician residents in Klamath Falls will help to improve the quality of life for many Southern Oregonians, while also training the next generation of rural health care providers. I will keep fighting to make sure that every Oregonian has access to the health care they need to thrive."

This week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) advanced health equity and access to care by awarding the first 200 of 1,000 Medicare funded physician residency slots to enhance the healthcare workforce and fund additional positions in hospitals serving underserved communities.  The funding is effective July, 2023, and the Senators say about three-fourths of the new positions will involved primary care and mental health specialties.

"Cascades East Family Medicine Residency Program, a partnership between Sky Lakes Medical Center and Oregon Health & Science University, is excited to have been awarded new physician residency slots," said Sky Lakes Medical Center Chief Executive Officer David Cauble, adding, "These new residency slots will allow Cascades East to add three residents to its robust rural training program at Sky Lakes Medical Center. The training at Cascades East is an essential part of creating a workforce of family physicians skilled at meeting their patients where they are at, adapting to the needs of rural communities to provide excellent care in areas with scarce resources. Cascades East is proud to have almost 80% of their graduates practicing in rural communities. Adding residency slots to this program is an important step toward ensuring the next generation of primary care physicians who will improve the health of Oregon's rural communities and beyond."