By Doug Nadvornick, Medical Sciences
OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington Gov. Jay Inslee today signed into law a bill that gives Washington State University the authority to create an independently accredited medical school in Spokane.
House Bill 1559 amends a 98-year-old state statute that gave exclusive rights to provide medical education to the University of Washington. The bill was nearly unanimously approved March 25 by the Senate; that followed an 81-17 vote in the House earlier in the month.
The governor signed the bill during a ceremony in Olympia. The ceremony can be viewed at http://tvw.org/index.php?option=com_tvwliveplayer&eventID=2015040039.
“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more people are now covered by health care,” Inslee said. “It’s not just that more people are covered – there are also more people in our state. We have depended on doctors trained in other states to come to Washington to practice. Yet the needs of our rural and underserved communities are not being met. In some areas, shortages are great.
“By removing a historic prohibition, we allow Washington State University to begin planning for a new medical school,” he said. “And we will promote good family-wage jobs in the greater Spokane area.”
Inslee was joined by WSU President Elson S. Floyd, who has worked to convince legislators of the need for a second publicly funded medical school in Washington.
“This is truly a historic moment in the life of Washington State University,” Floyd said. “I deeply appreciate the support of Gov. Inslee, the Washington State Legislature, community leaders and the health care industry. We look forward to developing a medical school that will improve access to primary health care for Washingtonians and broaden opportunities for students seeking a medical education in state. It is an honor to serve the people of Washington.”
Also at the signing ceremony was the bill’s prime sponsor in the House, Rep. Marcus Riccelli (D-Spokane).
“We have a growing need that isn’t being met by today’s medical education system, so the passage of this bill is a huge first step in addressing the physician shortage we see in rural and underserved communities,” said Riccelli. “A new generation of doctors will engage in cutting-edge community-based training to ensure Washington patients get the care they deserve.”
An identical bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane) and a bipartisan group of 17 colleagues.
“A new WSU medical school will help produce the doctors we need and will be an engine of economic growth creating thousands of jobs,” said Baumgartner.
Baumgartner and Riccelli worked closely with WSU administrators as they shepherded the bills through the legislative process.
“This is an important validation of the long-term investment that WSU has made in the Spokane community,” said WSU Spokane Chancellor Lisa Brown. “Our full-service medical school will add to the great work that’s already done by the colleges of Nursing and Pharmacy and the other allied health programs on our health sciences campus.”
“The physician shortage grows every day. That is why there is urgency in addressing this problem and why we fully support WSU’s effort to establish a medical school in Washington state,” said Joseph Wilczek, retired CEO for the Franciscan Health System in Tacoma. “We look forward to the day we are training WSU medical students and hiring WSU medical school graduates.”
Next legislative phase underway
Now that the medical school policy issue has been decided, attention has turned to the state budget. WSU has asked lawmakers for $2.5 million during the next two years to begin the accreditation process that could last as long as two years. Once preliminary accreditation is granted, the university can begin recruiting and accepting students. The goal is to admit the first WSU College of Medicine class to begin in August 2017.
Several health care leaders in Washington have publicly expressed their support for a WSU medical school. Here is a list of those who have agreed to talk with reporters:
Connie Agenbroad, CEO, Othello Community Hospital; 509-488-2636, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Jill Dudik-Bross, Samaritan Health Care, Moses Lake; 509-776-9450, email@example.com
Tom Martin, CEO, Lincoln Hospital, Davenport; 509-725-7101, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jon Smiley, interim CEO, Dayton Hospital; 509-382-2531, email@example.com
Don Wee, CEO, Tri-State Hospital, Clarkston; 509-758-4650, firstname.lastname@example.org
Joseph Wilczek, CEO, Chi Franciscan Health, Tacoma; email@example.com