Lawmaker pushing for Valley medical school

Friday, June 1, 2018
New bill pushes to expand Valley medical education
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The legislation aims to expand the UCSF campus in Fresno and strengthen the partnership with UC Merced.

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- As the legislation moves forward, 21st District Assemblymember Adam Gray said a medical school could become a reality in the Central Valley.

Gray's bill, AB 2202, recently passed its first committee vote. It pushes for the expansion of UCSF Fresno. The goal is to create a fully developed medical school and bring more doctors to the area.

"The longer-term goal is to establish a stronger presence, a campus in Fresno with UCSF, and a partnership with UC Merced that will continue many years in the future," Gray said.

Currently, Gray said UC Merced students collaborate with the UCSF Fresno campus to train physicians. He said expanding the facility could be vital in fixing the doctor shortage as they prepare more students in the area.

"It's no good to have an insurance card if you can't get in to see a doctor or see a nurse or have the medical infrastructure to provide healthcare," Gray said.

Healthcare officials said the shortage is a statewide problem, but it's more prevalent in the San Joaquin Valley.

"In the Central Valley, we tend to see whether it's primary care providers or specialists, that deficit is anywhere from 30 to 40% larger as well," Central Valley Health Network CEO Jason Vega said.

Camarena Healthcare CEO Paulo Soares said it could take them up to a year to fill one job position. He said a medical school nearby could help fix that problem.

"If we can start to provide opportunities for folks who are from the area to have the training in their backyard in the communities where they've grown up, hopefully, that helps not only bring them here but retain them in their communities," Soares said.

The bill still faces its hurdles, the main one being the cost to maintain a facility.

"You need to come up with a onetime $400 or 500 million dollar endowment or investment from the state, or the state needs to come up with the annual funding somewhere of $30 to 40 million dollars," Gray said.

Gray said along with a medical school, the state also needs to work on creating more residency programs to keep medical students working in the region.

He said the bill will now move to the Assembly floor within the next few weeks.