As an increasing number of health care providers retire, many communities are preparing themselves for a time in which there is a shortage of physicians. An assessment conducted by Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton found that Kitsap County could have a shortage of 30 or more physicians in just the next five to 10 years.
To respond to this looming shortage, Harrison Medical Center has gone through the designation process and become a teaching hospital, which is the first step toward creating a residency program to train new doctors. Naval Hospital in Bremerton hosted a residency program in the 1980s, but that program is being phased out. To bring a new residency program to life, Harrison hired former interim director of the Naval Hospital’s residency program, Dr. Michael Watson, to lead the way. Dr. Watson is working with many health groups in the county to round out the new teaching program to create a truly community-based residency program.
Residents at Harrison will complete a three-year course of study in Kitsap, working in a variety of health care settings. The program could host eight new residents each academic year, and if all goes to plan, the first class would graduate in 2021.
The Harrison Foundation pledged $1.5 million over three years to cover start-up costs for the program, and the medical center secured an additional state grant for $500,000 over the next two years. Once the program launches, it can also include federal funding.
As providers continue to retire, teaching the next generation of doctors will become increasingly important, especially in rural communities, and a commitment to teaching will help ensure continued access to high-quality health care for those in the Bremerton community.