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L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn Initiates Study for Residency Program at Rancho Los Amigos

June 15, 2017, 8:25 a.m.

By Brian Hews

Rancho Los Amigos, located in Downey, California, is the only rehabilitation hospital in Los Angeles County’s massive Department of Health Services system. It is a unique hospital that specializes in brain, neurology, orthopedic, pediatric, spine injury, and stroke rehabilitation.

It is also unique in another way; RLA does not have, similar to most other hospitals, a doctor residency program to recruit physicians to provide services to the over 75,000 patients the hospital serves annually.

DHS contracts out to Primary Care Critical Medical Group every year – at an annual cost of over $4.1 million – to serve the patients at RLA.

L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn.

But Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn is trying to change that, and there is precedence in the health system.

And it could also be a much more economically feasible program for the DHS.

Other Los Angeles County hospitals such as Harbor UCLA and County/USC have transitioned away from contracting doctors and established their own successful residency programs that recruit and attract full-time physicians.

And Hahn thinks RLA can transition in the same manner as its sister hospitals in the system.

“Rancho Los Amigos is a wonderful resource, with unique patients and a unique opportunity. But the facility has a problem retaining full time physicians, it is time we study the situation and ascertain if Rancho can transition to a residency system,” Hahn told HMG-CN.

Dr. Mitch Katz

Dr. Mitch Katz, Director of the Department of Health Services agreed and told HMG-CN,  “with the growing population of elderly persons and persons with disabilities, it is critical to train physicians on how to care for the medical illnesses of this population.  With its emphasis on rehabilitation and independent living, we believe that Rancho is the ideal place to educate residents.”

In talking with other hospital executives, RLA would have to focus on residency programs committed to training internists to work with people who have disabilities, similar to those at RLA.




The problem is that many students in medical school have already chosen residency and their specialty before they leave school and rehabilitation hospitals such as RLA are “not on their radar.”

That is the challenge for RLA: to create a similar pipeline with schools that graduate doctors suitable to working in the rehabilitation field and make them aware of RLA.

Hahn’s proposal was brought forward at the May 9, 2017 board meeting and Katz “thought it was an excellent idea.”

“First of all,” Katz said, “we’ve had great success in recruiting phenomenal county physicians in the field of rehabilitation and neurology in part because RLA is on cutting edge, but not in other fields, and that is where the problem lies.”

Katz though Hahn’s proposal would be a great help in other areas of the hospital.

“We have not had success in internal medicine recruiting. RLA is seen as a rehabilitation hospital and because there is no residency program there is no natural group of people leaving residency; if they see RLA, they say that is a rehabilitation hospital, I am in internal medicine internist.”

Katz proposed focusing the residency in the area of how internists function in a hospital that is about rehabilitation.

“Residency programs always work best when you get the niche right. We don’t want to compete against Kaiser for the production of internal residents in an outpatient scenario; we need a residency program committed to training internists to work with people with disabilities in a place like RLA.”

Katz finished, “it is time try a different strategy and I like the one Supervisor Hahn is proposing, if we were successful at that we would not have to contract out.”

Hahn’s motion was approved which initiated a 120 study of establishing a residency program at RLA.

Supervisor Hahn told HMG-CN after the meeting, “having a residency program at Rancho Los Amigos would help the County build a pipeline of physicians who are interested and trained in providing health care to patients with life-changing illness, injury, or disability. Rancho is on the cutting-edge in the field of rehabilitation and these residents would learn from the best.  I am going to push for this program. I think it is an important and exciting way to build on the progress already underway at Rancho.”


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