Lawmakers need to provide $10 million to make sure clinical training of doctors in Springfield by the University of Missouri School of Medicine can continue, Associate Dean for Rural Health Kathleen Quinn told a legislative committee Tuesday.
The program, which has been funded in the past, is operating on university reserves because Gov. Eric Greitens withheld the $5 million approved for the current year’s budget, Quinn said. If the program is to continue, training 32 physicians annually, the money needs to come from the state, she said.
The program, coupled with the pipeline program intended to identify students in rural communities interested in medical school, will help alleviate the shortage of providers in rural areas, Quinn said.
“Ninety percent of counties in Missouri have a physician shortage,” she said.
Quinn was one of three witnesses providing public testimony to the House Subcommittee on Appropriations-Education, the first legislative panel to review budget requests for the coming fiscal year. The subcommittee chairs haven’t heard yet how much money will be available for each subject area so it is difficult to know if any requests for increased funding can be granted, said Chairman Lyle Rowland, R-Cedar Creek.
“From the looks of what we are hearing, and again kind of rumor, we are not in as bad a shape as last year but our revenues have taken a downturn again,” Rowland said. “So what’s it going to look like? I don’t know.”
The physician training program, a partnership between MU, CoxHealth and Mercy Hospital in Springfield, is a program that has usually been funded as an extra line on the UM System budget. Quinn asked for the money to be included in the core budget of the university so it is available every year.
That may be difficult. Lawmakers appropriated $419.1 million for the UM System during the current year, a figure that was cut by Greitens to about $408 million, a 9 percent reduction over the previous year.
Others who came to Rowland’s committee Tuesday also asked for additional money. Sandy Koetting, chief financial officer at Lincoln University, asked for full funding of the school’s match for federal land grant university funds. The federal government makes $7.1 million available annually for Lincoln as an 1890 Land Grant institution, she said.
The school must match the funds, however, and Lincoln was only able to cover $3.1 million of the required funds. That leaves $4 million the table every year, she said.
The committee vice chairman, Rep. Allen Andrews, R-Grant City, questioned whether Lincoln receives too much from the state.
“Why almost does it cost two times per” full-time-equivalent student “to Lincoln compared to any other institution?“Andrews asked.
Koetting responded that the school may have higher costs due to its position as an open enrollment school.
It is a question that needs more attention, Andrews said.
“Whenever you get the data it is pretty astounding, such as the cost to the taxpayer ... in a tough budget year, those things come up,” Andrews said.
Lincoln’s state allocation was $20.5 million in the current year before withholdings imposed by Greitens.
The third witness Tuesday was Karen Ebbesmeyer, director of financial aid at Central Methodist University in Fayette. She asked that lawmakers put more money into Access Missouri scholarships. In fiscal 2009, she said, the state spent $93 million on the program compared with $76.5 million in the current year.
“Missouri can only reach its workforce development goal if a substantial number of low-income students are supported in their effort to attend college,” Ebbesmeyer said.