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Doctor training program seeks funds


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POSTED: Thursday, January 29, 2009

HILO » The doctor-starved Big Island could be home to 23 new physicians by 2012 if a new doctor training program is successful, island medical representatives said yesterday.

But the program needs $1.1 million in community donations in the next two years or the program comes to an end, said Dr. Jim Donovan. State funding of $4 million has fallen through.

“;We need $50,000 right now by June,”; Donovan said. “;We're all hanging out here at the edge of the cliff. We're not faking this.”;

When three doctors opened a clinic in Hilo last year, 1,000 would-be patients were placed on a waiting list and never got a call, Donovan said.

Boyd Murayama, head of Hilo Medical Center's physician recruitment, said, “;I think all the doctors in the community are overwhelmed.”;

“;We have a health care crisis,”; said Leonard Tanaka, of the Community Healthcare Action Taskforce.

The planned Rural Residency Training Program, in preparation since 2007, calls for recent graduates of medical schools to complete three years of “;residency,”; advanced training with an experienced doctor, at a newly remodeled building in Hilo.

By the end of this year, there would be three teaching doctors, and the first student doctors would arrive in March 2010.

The young doctors could come from anywhere in the nation, but the John A. Burns School of Medicine of the University of Hawaii would be an immediate source.

New doctors trained in a specific community tend to stay in that community after their training, said Dr. Craig Shikuma, who operated a similar program in the 1990s until it ran out of money.

Contributions can be sent to the Hilo Medical Center Foundation, 1190 Waianuenue Ave., Hilo, HI 96720.