Rural hospitals look for help as coronavirus threat continues

Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — As the Coronavirus crisis continues, concerns are being raised about whether rural hospitals and clinics have what they need to fight the disease.

Data show the number of rural hospitals continues to fall, and nearly half of those still open are losing money. That leads many in Congress to worry whether those hospitals are ready.

“Are there specific things that you guys are doing to make sure that rural hospitals have the resources that they need,” asked Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) in a Senate hearing.

Health experts told lawmakers they’re working to make sure the rural healthcare system is ready to treat patients, despite industry struggles.

“Well, its always hard to provide medical services in remote rural areas, and there’s a lot of them in Nevada,” said Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV).

Some experts say ongoing cuts by Congress are hurting rural healthcare.

“In fact, in the last year we had more rural hospitals close than in the previous decade,” said Maggie Elehwany with the National Rural Health Association. She says with even fewer hospitals and doctors, rural hospitals are doing the best they can, but need more help from lawmakers.

“Additionally, what we need to be concerned about is making sure they have an adequate amount of supplies,” said Elehwany .

Congress is working on an $8 billion spending bill for the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis, but there’s still concern rural healthcare won’t get what it needs.

“I think we need to watch it closely before we turn any money loose,” said Senator Mike Braun (R-IN). He says extra funding should be targeted where it’s most needed.

“I think you need to be smart about it, direct it where you need it, and we don’t know where that might be,” said Braun.

It’s expected Congress could vote on that emergency bill by the end of the week.

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