Expanding the educational capacity to train more primary health care providers for rural areas of South Dakota is the focus of a new task force created by Gov. Dennis Daugaard.
Dr. Mary Nettleman, Dean of the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine, and Deb Bowman, Senior Advisor to the Governor, will co-chair the group, which is comprised of medical and health professionals as well as policymakers.
"South Dakota's need for doctors and other health professionals will only increase as our population ages and we see more people with chronic health conditions," Gov. Daugaard said. "The state has long offered help to communities in recruiting providers, but it's important that we also look on the front end and make sure we're getting adequate numbers of health care students in the pipeline."
Health professionals in South Dakota are concentrated in the state's most populous areas while rural areas face continuing challenges in recruiting and retaining health care providers.
Fifty-nine of the state's 66 counties are federally designated as health-professional shortage areas, either partially or completely. Further compounding the problem is that significant numbers of current providers are nearing retirement age at a time when the state's school-age population is declining, meaning a smaller pool of students from which to draw for health careers.
The Governor's Primary Care Task Force will consider and make recommendations regarding the medical school class size, components of the rural training track for medical students, residency programs in the state, and physician assistant and nurse practitioner program capacity.
The task force is expected to meet throughout the summer and fall and report its recommendations to the Governor by Dec. 15.
Promoting rural health occupations is a key component of the Governor's South Dakota Workforce Initiatives (WINS). South Dakota Wins is a workforce development program that brings together government, education and business leaders to help South Dakota develop and attract a stronger, more educated workforce. Find more information about South Dakota Wins at http://www.southdakotawins.com/