The number of medical residents and fellows providing care in Travis County clinics and hospitals is up by 30 percent since 2012, according to a report released this week by the University of Texas’ Dell Medical School.
In 2016, there were 287 residents working in county clinics and hospitals, up from 218 in 2012, the community benefit report says. That number is projected to grow to more than 300 by 2020.
When pressed at a Central Health meeting Wednesday night by board member Julie Oliver about why that number would only grow by about 13 in four years, the school’s dean, Clay Johnston, said that was a conservative estimate.
“The 300 is just reflecting commitments we’ve already made,” Johnston said in his presentation. “We actually expect the number to grow faster as we open new residency spots.”
Johnston also noted that residency programs roll over every two to four years, bringing new residents into the community and producing new physicians. The programs are funded primarily by a partnership with Seton Healthcare Family.
The report also highlights other areas that Dell Medical School considers it made progress in the past year, including that 79 percent of women in the recently redesigned perinatal care system are keeping postpartum appointments, up from about 40 percent previously, and that the yearlong wait for orthopedic appointment is down to three weeks.
“We think the real impact of our work … is the redesign,” Johnston said at Wednesday’s meeting. “Because … if (care is) provided where the outcomes are better and the costs are lower, we all win even more than having those additional (provider) positions.”
The third-annual report comes as the school and Central Health, the county health care district, face criticism from some community groups over the transparency of the school’s use of $35 million of taxpayer funds annually. Travis County voters agreed in 2012 to raise property taxes to make that contribution.
Officials argue that the school’s doctors and residents work in its affiliated clinics to take care of low-income patients, and in the long term the school will help attract and retain providers.
The report also shows that in the fiscal 2016-17 year, most of taxpayer funds, or a projected $46.1 million, have been used for compensation and employment-related expenses. The rest, $100,000, was used for information technology equipment and software.
Johnston told board members that compensation is the largest budget item at most medical schools, and Dell Medical School’s building costs are covered by other funding sources.
As for what’s next, the school plans to open new clinics in the early winter and will continue to work on clinical model redesigns, Johnston said.
No one spoke during citizens’ communication on Wednesday about the benefit report. Board members on Wednesday were mainly congratulatory of Dell Medical School for the work it has accomplished.
Central Health updates
At Wednesday’s regular Central Health meeting, enterprise chief administrative officer Larry Wallace updated the board on proposed efforts to expand health care in eastern Travis County.
• Expansion of adult health care services from UT Nursing School, possibly at Creedmoor Elementary. Status: Pending approval from Del Valle school board.
• Creation of Del Valle Wellness Clinic at Travis County Employee Healthcare Clinic site on FM 973 that would be open 2½ to three days a week. Status: CommUnityCare, a network of public clinics affiliated with Central Health, is seeking federal approval to provide primary care at the site. The project will go before the Travis County Commissioners Court this month.
• Long-term, Central Health hopes to build a permanent health canter on existing county property on FM 973. Status: Project will require approval from county commissioners.
Northeastern Travis County
• The Austin school district has offered a portable classroom building at Overton Elementary to be used as a Northeast Health Resource Center. Status: School board should make decision in September.
• Expansion of operation days at Turner-Roberts Recreation Center, where CommUnityCare provides clinical care through a mobile care team. Status: Central Health discussing with city.
• Austin’s Master Plan calls for the construction of a health care facility in Colony Park. Status: Timeline unknown.
• Mobile Loaves and Fishes co-founder and CEO Alan Graham has offered to provide land and assist with the construction of a health center on Hog Eye Road near the Community First Village. Status: Planning stages with Graham and other partners.
• Renovations to existing CommUnityCare health center or construction of new health center. Status: Very early planning stages.
Central Health budget
Central Health is proposing to lower its tax rate to 10.74 cents per $100 taxable valuation from 11.05 cents per $100 taxable valuation. However, because the average homestead value increased from $285,152 to $305,173, the average homestead would still see an increase of about 4 percent, or $12.50, on their tax bill.
The proposed budget includes an increase of $11.7 million in health care delivery operations, which includes reserves and debt service.
The proposed budget and property tax rate will go before the Travis County Commissioners Court on Tuesday. Central Health will hold public hearings on Aug. 30 and Sept. 6, both at 6 p.m. at Central Health Administrative Offices, 1111 E. Cesar Chavez St.
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