Keeping Spokane’s Health Care Sector Strong
Last Friday I had breakfast with 300 business leaders at the Lincoln Center. We were gathered at Greater Spokane Incorporated’s monthly breakfast to hear about the newly completed economic impact study for the proposed expansion of the WWAMI program, which would bring a four-year medical school to Spokane’s Riverpoint Campus in the University District.
I expected to hear some impressive numbers regarding the projected annual economic impact that an academic health sciences center could bring our region. I wasn’t disappointed….the study projects a $1.6 billion annual impact, more than 9,000 new jobs and a $5 dollar return on every dollar spent on medical research.
But the medical school concept is not just an economic engine. It’s an asset that can translate into improved health of our region and citizens. I was surprised by these facts:
- The University of Washington, the only medical school in a five state region, turns away 80% of aspiring Washington medical students because of a lack of capacity. We are sending our young talent to other states for medical school. Research shows they are more likely to settle where they train.
- At the same time, Washington State imports 80% of our physicians from other states. This is costly and will grow more difficult as the national supply of physicians tightens.
- Older physicians are retiring faster than new doctors are entering the workforce. By 2025 our country will be short 160,000 physicians.
- The physician shortage is especially acute in rural communities. Eight rural counties in Eastern Washington have the most severe shortage in the state.
This is an important issue for our state and our region. Our firm has worked on this issue as well as the nursing shortage and health care access for rural communities and low-income families. As we learn more about what national health care reform means to our country and our region, we should continue to ensure Spokane’s health care sector stays strong and continues to grow. Building on this tremendous asset makes sense for our economy and our community health.
For more on the medical school project, go to: http://www.greaterspokane.org/press-releases-and-news/405-spokane-medical-school.html