LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County will pay back up to $120,000 in student loans to doctors as an incentive to get them to work in Los Angeles County jails, under a plan approved by the Board of Supervisors Tuesday.
The county is looking for physician specialists — who can join right out of their residency program — and senior physicians with at least five years out of residency and some program oversight experience.
The loan reimbursement will be paid out at the rate of up to $30,000 annually, depending on the actual amount of debt.
And for doctors lucky enough not to have any student debt, the county will pay out a one-time $10,000 bonus after six months of service and another $20,000 after the first year of full-time work.
Department of Health Services officials are hoping to attract more than 40 physicians with the incentive payments. Doctors hired will care for patients and provide first-line technical and administrative oversight of physicians, nurses and other professional medical providers.
It has long been a challenge to recruit physicians for jobs inside the jail system and an overall shortage of primary care doctors has exacerbated the problem, according to Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai.
Jail patients represent an underserved and vulnerable population, with roughly 10-12 percent homeless, 20-25 percent battling serious mental illnesses and as many as two-thirds dealing with substance abuse disorders.
The environment presents an unusual opportunity to build skills.
“In Correctional Health Services, physicians will learn skills related to primary care, acute care, behavioral health and public health all within an interdisciplinary care model,” a spokesman for the unit said. “Physicians rarely get the opportunity to care for patients and affect social justice at the same time like this.”