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Health care gets a boost

IHC programs and donations to increase number of workers

Intermountain Health Care Thursday announced steps it is taking to help address a national shortage of graduates in medical training programs. The company plans new programs and donations valued at about $2 million to boost the number of health professionals being trained throughout the state.

Utah has the third-most-dire nursing shortage in the country. In coming years health experts expect a crisis in diverse health specialties, including pharmacies, respiratory therapy, certain medical specialties and elsewhere.

The infusion of new cash and other support from IHC is in addition to the $12 million IHC already spends each year to bolster training programs throughout the state, said Daron Cowley, IHC spokesman. More than 1,500 students in health-related programs get part of their education and training each year at IHC hospitals and clinics.

At a Thursday morning press conference, IHC officials said they've joined forces with the departments of nursing at Salt Lake Community College and Utah Valley State College to produce additional registered nurse graduates. An injection of $1.5 million in funding from IHC, the state's largest health-care provider system, will pay for the two colleges to graduate 144 more registered nurses over the next three years. That's in addition to the number of nurses already enrolled.

IHC will also team with Weber State University to add programs to produce more respiratory therapists by adding programs at Salt Lake, Provo and St. George hospitals. The donation of about $100,000 will fund an additional 52 students to complete the respiratory therapy training.

The announcement, made at LDS Hospital, includes other donations:

$100,000 to the University of Utah College of Nursing.

$50,000 each to the nursing programs at Weber State and its nursing program at Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Brigham Young University and Dixie College.

$35,000 to the U. pharmacy residency training program.

$20,000 to WSU's Department of Clinical Laboratory Science to expand the number of medical technologists being trained.

$13,300 to the WSU nurse training program in Richfield.

One of the state's big dilemmas, particularly in nursing, has been having more applicants than training slots. The IHC donations are intended to expand teaching staff so more individuals can be trained.

The announcement was lauded by representatives from SLCC, WSU, the U. and the Utah Hospitals and Health Systems Association during the press briefing.

Rick Kinnersley, association president, said local hospitals and health care systems have worked hard, using a team approach, to help defuse a crisis that is expected to get much worse between now and 2010.