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Lakeland Regional Health to offer residency program to help solve physician shortage

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Posted at 7:33 PM, Jun 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-30 19:33:38-04

LAKELAND,Fla. — Access to healthcare is expanding in Polk County.

Lakeland Regional Health just broke ground on its new primary and specialty care site located just off I-4 and Kathleen Road. This comes as Polk County is seeing an explosive population growth.

“The number of providers to patients or population to Polk County is stretched. So, this is a great way of expanding our access,” said Lakeland Regional Health Chief Quality Officer Dr. Hal Escowitz.

Escowitz said Lakeland Regional has the busiest emergency department by patient volume in the nation. He said the pandemic highlighted a physician shortage and the need to ensure there are enough doctors to meet the health needs of the growing community.

“Over the last two years certainly it’s an unprecedented time in medicine. It was very challenging to providers, particularly on the front lines, having to deal with that patient volume,” said Escowitz.

Once complete, Lakeland Regional’s new site will be home to the hospital’s first ever Graduate Medical Education Residency program. This will allow 200 physicians to train in Lakeland.

“Great way for us to internally grow our physician base in Lakeland and Polk County and expand that access that people desperately need to keep themselves healthy,” Escowitz said.

He said the GME program will work as a pipeline to bring more health care providers to the area. “What’s found in many GME programs is that the residents who train here actually love the city and grow and get to know the community and wind up staying on as providers here in town,” Escowitz said.

The primary and specialty care site is set to open late 2023.