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Bill aims to help visiting military get medical training in Arizona

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About HB 2064:

• Author: Rep. Heather Carter, R-Phoenix

• Key provisions: Would require state medical licensing boards to issue temporary training permits to qualified military health professionals. Would require that the permits be issued on a renewable one-year basis without the current $50 fee.

Affected: The Arizona State Board of Dental Examiners (BODEX), Arizona Medical Board (AMB) and Arizona Regulatory Board of Physician Assistants (ABPA).

PHOENIX – Streamlining the state’s permitting processes and waiving fees for licensed military medical staff receiving hand-on training at Arizona hospitals would lead to better care for soldiers around the world, a state lawmaker said Wednesday.

“The process is as varied as the number of boards we have for our medical professionals,” Rep. Heather Carter, R-Phoenix, told the House Committee on Public Safety, Military and Regulatory Affairs. “We are attempting to streamline that process.”

Carter authored HB 2064 to require the Arizona Medical Board, Arizona Board of Dental Examiners and Arizona Regulatory Board of Physician Assistants to issue one-year permits in a more consistent manner, rather than the varied policies the boards use now.

It would also waive the $50 fee normally charged for the permits.

The committee unanimously endorsed the measure, forwarding it to the House floor by way of the Rules Committee.

About 350 military doctors, nurses and physicians’ assistants get hands-on training through Scottsdale Healthcare every year, Michelle Pabis, the health system’s executive director of government and public affairs, told the committee.

Current law requires military doctors in that program to get temporary permits and pay $50. The varied requirements of the different boards complicates the process, Pabis said, and streamlining the requirements for licensed military medical staff would make it easier for more doctors to take part in the program.

Pabis said Carter’s bill would remove the hurdles while allowing “the licensing board to know who is in our state and who is working with Scottsdale Healthcare staff and doctors and seeing civilian patients.”

The bill would only apply to military medical staff who are already licensed in other states, not first-time licensees.

Col. Yolanda Bledsoe, commander of the 56th Medical Group at Luke Air Force Base, told the committee that there is a growing need for this kind of hands-on training. The military’s ability to provide that training isn’t enough, she added.

“Our inpatient facilities have dwindled over time in the Air Force Medical Service, and so we don’t have as many inpatient facilities that gives us that acuity level of patients that we see that we need to take care of,” Bledsoe said. “This affords us the opportunity to work with hands-on patients with true trauma concerns and then we’re ready.”

Jon Altmann, the national vice president for enlisted affairs for the Association of the United States Navy, said his association supports the bill because it could increase military training in Arizona.

“It brings money to the state through (Department of Defense) contracts,” Altmann told the committee. “Certainly it removes unnecessary and burdensome rules imposed on military health care professionals training in the state.”

Rep. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, who voted in favor of the bill, said the more training members of the military can get the better.

“I spent 22 years in the Marine Corps and I put things in two different categories: ‘nice to have,’ ‘need to have,’” he said. “This is definitely not a ‘nice to have’; this is a ‘need to have.’”

But Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, who also voted in favor, said he was worried the bill would force medical licensing boards to issue permits to any military medical staff even if the board has concerns about a doctor’s eligibility.

Bledsoe, from Luke Air Force Base, responded that military medical staff with questionable credentials aren’t referred for training in such programs.

Carter agreed to consider an amendment that would give the medical boards more flexibility in approving permits.