ALBANY, Georgia (WALB) – The Medical College of Georgia (MCG) is looking for new ways to expand access to healthcare and recruit more healthcare workers in South Georgia.
Congressman Sanford Bishop spent Monday touring the Southwest Georgia College of Medicine in Albany. He has heard of the strategies the college is using to keep more health workers in rural areas.
Bishop said healthcare professionals have always been important, but the COVID-19 pandemic has shown just how much more urgent is the need for doctors in Southwest Georgia.
One of the ways MCG is helping to retain doctors in South Georgia is through a new program called the 3+ Program. It is an incentive program that offers loan forgiveness if students stay and work in underserved rural areas in Georgia.
“Year after year for their residency training here, and if they stay in an underserved area or rural area where a doctor is needed. They can get a forgiveness loan for one year, ”Bishop said.
Bishop said the initiative will attract more graduates interested in healthcare because they will not face such high costs in their education.
The program is funded by federal grants and some private donations.
Another form of medical care that is important for rural Georgia is telemedicine, a way for people living in rural areas to receive virtual assistance from specialists.
Georgia College of Medicine offers two new telemedicine programs: ultrasound and dermatology. The programs are funded by federal grants through the USDA.
Doug Patten, deputy dean of the Albany campus, said primary care providers in rural Georgia will be able to get feedback from their Augusta hospital in seconds.
Patton said getting feedback on time could be life-changing for someone who has a blemish on their skin that could be melanoma.
“The ability to get an almost instant second opinion, while the patient is still in the doctor’s office, as to whether a biopsy is needed or not. “The likelihood that it could be fatal cancer or not is incredibly helpful,” Patten said.
Patton said this telemedicine option eliminates the need for patients to travel for hours to get a specialist’s opinion.
Federal funds for telemedicine could also go towards technology development, additional equipment, and investments in better Internet access, Patton said.
Congressman Bishop said he hopes the types of grants that help fund these programs will be updated to provide better healthcare.
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