SPRINGFIELD (AP) — Hundreds of highly qualified medical students could be absent from Illinois teaching hospitals starting in July because of delays in processing their licenses, the result of a dispute between lawmakers and the medical community about how to fund the state office that issues licenses for physicians and doctors-in-training.
Thousands of applications are submitted by medical residents every spring for temporary licenses. But the office that handles those applications, the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation's medical unit, slashed more than half its employees last month because of financial woes.
The result: Processing times for licenses have increased from 16 days to six months. And it could get worse soon, since the unit is solely funded through license fees but lawmakers and doctors can't agree on how much those should cost.
Medical students nationwide seeking residency spots for next academic year have until Wednesday to submit a list of their hospital preferences. Yet some highly qualified students may overlook Illinois hospitals out of fears they won't be licensed by the time they have to start working.
"Students who are quite competitive, who have several options and could have their choice, it could make sense not to take the chance (of not being licensed on time)," said Dr. Karen Broquet, associate dean for graduate medical education at Southern Illinois University.
Senior medical students are interviewed by program directors between fall and winter every year. By February, those students must submit a list with their school preferences in order to a centralized matching service. Similarly, residency programs submit a list of their favored students to the same service. Using a complex algorithm, the service then matches students and programs, and the results are revealed on the third Friday of March each year.
Broquet said medical students have raised concerns about licensing delays during the interviews with program directors. She added that the school is assuring students that they will receive the promised training should they be selected by the school, even if they start later than scheduled.