Congress OKs funds for resident doctors at pediatric hospitals

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WASHINGTON -- A House vote Tuesday ensures that pediatric teaching hospitals including Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC will continue to get federal assistance to educate doctors.

The House unanimously agreed to reauthorize The Children's Hospitals Graduate Medical Education program. Sponsored by Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., the bill passed the Senate in November and now heads to the president's desk.

Reps. Joe Pitts, R-Lancaster, and Frank Pallone, D-N.J., shepherded it through the House.

The graduate medical education program was first enacted in 1999 and has been reauthorized twice since then.

It provides funding to 54 freestanding children's hospitals including Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, which received $8.2 million last year and $8.3 million the previous year to cover resident stipends, faculty salary, overhead and other training costs.

The aim is to increase the number of residents in children's hospital programs, to enhance research capabilities and to provide care for vulnerable and underserved children.

Mr. Casey's legislation provides $300 million a year for the next five years to support residency programs at children's hospitals.

Teaching hospitals that treat adults receive similar funding from Medicare, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Funding for Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh will go toward supporting more than 100 pediatric residents.

"This is our farm system. This is what brings the best and brightest to Pittsburgh, and the stronger we are as a program the more likely they are to choose us," said Andrew Urbach, associate chief medical officer and professor of pediatrics. "This brings a lot of incredible talent to the region."

Often, they stay. Dr. Urbach did. He originally came to Children's Hospital from Staten Island for a three-year residency. Thirty-five years later he is still there.

Washington bureau chief Tracie Mauriello:, 703-996-9292 or Twitter: @pgPoliTweets.

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