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DeTar, Texas A&M formalize partnership to train doctors in Victoria

By Elena Watts
Jan. 7, 2014 at 8:01 p.m.
Updated Jan. 7, 2014 at 7:08 p.m.

William Blanchard, chief executive officer of the DeTar Healthcare System, left, and Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp sign the official paperwork Tuesday establishing a family medicine residency program at DeTar Hospital. The first group of 6 residents will start in July 2015.

Victoria will be home to 18 doctors in training by 2017.

William Blanchard, chief executive officer of DeTar Healthcare System, and John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M University System, signed the agreement to establish a family medicine residency program in Victoria at a news conference Tuesday.

"We train doctors in other areas of Texas, but this is probably the smallest town," said Sharp. "The Legislature appropriated money because we need more doctors in this area, and they tend to stay where they are trained."

The program, which will begin in July 2015 and create more than 22 new jobs, will establish a stable source of family practice candidates for the area, Blanchard said.

The Health Resources and Services Administration has designated populations of Victoria County and its surrounding counties as Medicaid underserved, according to the Regional Healthcare Partnership project proposal.

Limited access to health care for impoverished patients in the area costs more because of preventable use of emergency departments and potentially preventable inpatient hospitalizations, according to the proposal.

Without continuity of care by a primary care doctor, patients' health conditions worsen - especially those with chronic conditions.

The average age of DeTar's primary care physicians is 66.4, while the average in the Victoria service area is 53, according to a hospital news release. Thirteen of the 40 family medicine physicians will be older than 65 when the first class of residents graduates in 2018.

Six residents will begin the three-year residency program in 2015. An additional 12 residents will be added over the next two years.

When fully operational, the residency program will train 18 residents, Blanchard said.

The goal is to eventually make DeTar a primary teaching hospital in South Texas.

The hospital will also hire four full-time physicians as well as support staff to work with the program.

In 2010, Texas ranked 47th in the country with 70 active primary care physicians per 100,000 people. The national average was 91 physicians, according to a hospital PowerPoint presentation.

The conversation about the residency program began between Sharp and Victoria businessman Dennis Patillo, DeTar Healthcare System board member and president of Stewart Title of the Coastal Bend.

"Chancellor Sharp had his first meeting with Dean Ogden the fall of 2012," Blanchard said. "The biggest challenge is yet to come."

Gaining program accreditation by the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education by the end of 2014 is an aggressive goal, Blanchard said.

Funding for the residency program will be provided by the hospital and university as well as state government grants and federal government programs.

The Texas Legislature appropriated a $150,000 planning grant with potential for additional support in the future.

A Section 1115 Medicaid transformation waiver will provide about $4 million over four years; DeTar Healthcare System will cover $7.5 million; Medicare will pay about $80,000 per year per resident, and Texas A&M will pay for the remainder of the expenses.

Guest speakers at the news conference included Blanchard, Sharp, State Rep. Geanie Morrison, Vice Chairman of the Texas A&M System Board of Regents Cliff Thomas and Interim Dean of the Texas A&M Health Science Center Paul Ogden.

Sharp and Thomas share Victoria roots.

Sharp, who was born in DeTar Hospital, remembered the last time he was treated by the hospital in 1967.

"On a Friday night Tidehaven versus Bloomington High School football game, a guy named Cliff Thomas and his brother, Bill, dislocated my back," Sharp said.

A market assessment conducted by Dr. Thomas Blackwell, Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education board member, showed a need for the family medicine residency program. The community connections and relationship between the two businessmen helped cement the partnership.

"The trust was already established," Sharp said about the two entities.



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