The $7.1 billion budget bill passed through both chambers of the state Legislature this week will have its critics. No one ever gets all they want. State Sen. John Sparks, D-Norman, raised the issue of $13 million in additional allocation to the OSU Medical School in Tulsa.
Mr. Sparks said it’s at least the third special expenditure requested and granted to the school.
“Each time, it has been approved with the understanding that it would be the last bailout needed. And each time, they are approved because the program purports to provide doctors for rural Oklahoma,” Mr. Sparks said.
“However, these physicians graduate with $200,000 to $225,000 in debt. This is two to three times the amount of debt accrued by students at medical schools in the surrounding states. With that much debt, these physicians are practically forced to find work in high-revenue practices so they can repay their loans,” he said.
Mr. Sparks said the $13 million could be better used to pay off the loans of medical school graduates if they provided health care in rural Oklahoma.
For example, with $13 million, we could go to Baylor Medical School in Dallas and recruit 140 physicians who could be deployed, debt-free, to rural and underserved areas of Oklahoma. The numbers are comparable for many of the medical schools in Arkansas, Missouri and Kansas.
We agree. The current scenario is not resulting in a good return on the investment of taxpayer dollars.