Legislature(2003 - 2004)

03/22/2004 01:31 PM Senate HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
             SB 373-PHYSICIAN INTERNS AND RESIDENTS                                                                         
The committee took up SB 373.                                                                                                   
CHAIR DYSON presented the sponsor statement as follows:                                                                         
     Current  Alaska  statutes  require that  all  residents                                                                    
     participating  in  the WAMI/Family  Practice  Residency                                                                    
     program  receive a  permit by  the State  Medical Board                                                                    
     for a period not to exceed  18 months after the date of                                                                    
     issue.    Renewal  permits to  continue  residency  [or                                                                    
     internship] are also issued by  the board, for a period                                                                    
     not to exceed 18 months after the date of renewal.                                                                         
     Given  that the  program is  a three-year  program, all                                                                    
     residents  are  required  to  get  the  renewal.    The                                                                    
     renewal  process   has  been  fraught   with  problems.                                                                    
     Residents have  needed to  interrupt their  training on                                                                    
     multiple  occasions because  the  renewed permits  were                                                                    
     not issued efficiently.   This legislation would extend                                                                    
     the period from 18 to 36 months.                                                                                           
CHAIR DYSON  indicated that Senators  Davis and Green  had joined                                                               
the meeting.                                                                                                                    
DR.  HAROLD  JOHNSTON,  a  family   physician,  and  director  of                                                               
Providence  Alaska's  family  practice  residency  in  Anchorage,                                                               
testified via  teleconference that this bill  extends the initial                                                               
permit length  for resident  physicians from  18 months  to three                                                               
years  so that  it corresponds  with the  length of  the training                                                               
program.   Family  physicians are  required  to have  a total  of                                                               
three  years  of   residency  training  in  order   to  be  board                                                               
certified.   Current law allows  the permit  for a maximum  of 18                                                               
months.   This requires  that the  residents renew  their permits                                                               
half way  through the training  program; this poses  problems for                                                               
the Division  of Occupational Licensing.   The processing  of the                                                               
licensing renewal  requests has  created difficulties  on several                                                               
occasions,  which  has  almost caused  residents  to  stop  their                                                               
DR.  JOHNSTON explained  that when  the 18-month  requirement was                                                               
originally established, physicians in  Alaska only needed to have                                                               
one year  of training before  being eligible for a  full license.                                                               
The  18-month  term for  resident  permits  allowed residents  to                                                               
complete the first year of  training and still have an additional                                                               
six months  to get paperwork  processed for the  regular license.                                                               
Several years ago the state  law changed, requiring physicians to                                                               
have  two years  of  residency before  obtaining an  unrestricted                                                               
license, which  means the  18-month permit  is inadequate  to get                                                               
the  resident  through his/her  initial  licensing  period.   The                                                               
ideal situation  would be for permits  to be issued for  a three-                                                               
year period from the start  of training because in this scenario,                                                               
there would be no requirement for a renewal.                                                                                    
CHAIR  DYSON  asked  if  there   was  anybody  present  from  the                                                               
administration  or the  [Division of  Occupational Licensing]  to                                                               
speak to the  bill.  Hearing no response, he  then asked, "Do you                                                               
have  any idea,  Dr. Johnston,  how we  got into  this remarkable                                                               
DR. JOHNSTON re-stated  that it was because the  law had changed.                                                               
Originally the 18-month permit was  fine because only one year of                                                               
training  was required  before getting  an unrestricted  license.                                                               
About  two  or  three  years ago,  the  Legislature  changed  the                                                               
requirement, and now  physicians need to have at  least two years                                                               
-  and sometimes  three years  -  of training  before getting  an                                                               
unrestricted  license.   He said  he  has worked  with the  State                                                               
Medical Board  on this  issue, and at  the January  meeting after                                                               
some  considerable debate,  a  resolution  unanimously passed  in                                                               
support of changing this to 36 months.                                                                                          
SENATOR GARY WILKEN moved to report  SB 373 out of committee with                                                               
individual recommendations.                                                                                                     
CHAIR  DYSON  asked if  there  was  any  objection.   Seeing  and                                                               
hearing none, it was so ordered.                                                                                                

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