U, state revamp health center

by Patrick Hayes

In response to the rapidly changing face of health care and its restructuring turmoil of the 1990s, University faculty members, administrators and state legislators recently developed a six-year strategic plan for the University’s Academic Health Center.
During the past decade, restructuring within the AHC put more pressure on faculty members to increase revenue for educational costs, which, in turn, inhibited research opportunities.
This, coupled with Minnesota’s growing health care needs and the instability of the Medical School’s funding, led to the development of the six-year plan.
In November 1999, the University Board of Regents established a committee to work with AHC administrators and faculty members to design the new strategic vision.
The committee met from December to June; in July, the regents approved the plan. Frank Cerra, director of the AHC, presented the final version on Nov. 10. He will also discuss the plan’s first priorities — training and funding — at next week’s regents meeting in the Gateway Alumni center building.
The plan has seven key points:
ù train new health professionals;
ù sustain the vitality of the University’s health research;
ù insure the application of new knowledge in health care;
ù develop new models of health promotion;
ù reduce health disparities in Minnesota;
ù increase the use of technology to transform education in health care; and
ù build a culture of service and accountability to Minnesota.
Cerra will address the plan’s most important points during the next regents meeting: training more health professionals and stabilizing the core funding of the Medical School.
According to regents’ documents, Minnesota currently has more than 200 job openings for pharmacists, 1,700 for nurses, 100 for medical technologists, and 300 for physicians.
The shortage of health care professionals is more prominent because the influx of immigrants settling in Minnesota and the increase in Minnesota’s aging population demand more health care, said Regent Maureen Reed, who is also the director of Health Partners.
“Health care is a very rapidly changing field,” Reed said. “Individuals that would have gone into health care 10 years ago now have many other opportunities.”
The booming economy and the increase in job opportunities for health professionals have made it difficult for Minnesota hospitals to attract enough health care workers, Reed said.
Hospitals need professionals 24-hours-a-day, making it hard to fill the unattractive hours when potential employees can find more attractive hours elsewhere.
In addition, the influx of immigrants in Minnesota has led to a diverse number of illnesses and diseases which adds to the strain in the health-care field, Reed said.
To address this shortage in health care professionals, Cerra said he will discuss at the Regents meeting ways to persuade the state Legislature to fund the $7.1 million biennial request to train more health professionals.
Approximately $45 million will fund the hiring of at least 13 new faculty members each year of the six-year plan.
Cerra will also discuss ways with the Regents to ensure the $16 million biennial request to fund the University’s Medical School core funding, the money needed to fulfill the educational land grant mandate to train physicians.
“If we don’t get the core funding then we will have to decrease the number of physicians we train,” he said.
The AHC currently trains more than 70 percent of Minnesota’s health care professionals.

Patrick Hayes welcomes comments at [email protected]