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Critical Care Between Mile Markers

Apr 24, 2020
Column

Rural hospitals and Rural Health Care Clinics (RHC’s) provide lifesaving and essential care between mile markers – they serve a crucial function in the wellbeing of our communities. Doctors and nurses in these facilities see patients who would otherwise be burdened with extended travel to the closest hospital for emergency and routine care. For far too long, many operated on limited financial resources and slim margins to keep their doors open.

The effects of COVID-19 have only added to the challenges rural health care providers face. Thousands of patients have been affected, while the professionals risk their own health and safety to serve others. Without immediate assistance, rural hospitals and clinics could be forced to close their doors for good, cutting off the medical access to communities that means the difference between life and death. I have been working around the clock with my colleagues to ensure that help is on the way.

In the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, $165 million was allocated for rural hospitals, including over half a million dollars for the 25th District. Hill Regional Hospital, an acute care facility in Hillsboro, will receive funding to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE), and expand telehealth access and testing capacity. AdventHealth Rollins Brook, which provides services ranging from outpatient appointments to spiritual counseling in Lampasas, and Goodall-Witcher Hospital, a general medical and surgical facility in Clifton, will also receive funding to combat the toll of the virus and keep their doors open.

Since every rural facility has different needs, the federal dollars we provided allow maximum flexibility so that every practice can most effectively serve their patients.  It is of the utmost importance that we continue listening to the medical professionals on the ground and turn their needs into action.

After hearing concerns from providers in our district about the dire lack of resources, I called on the Administration to allow rural hospitals and RHC’s to be eligible for financial aid and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) in the CARES Act. I also supported the Rural Health Relief Act, legislation that will ensure hospitals are eligible for loans under the PPP, and thanks to these actions, some of our rural facilities are now able to apply for this aid to help maintain staff and cover immediate expenses. While we have made great progress in equipping them for the time being, there is much more work to be done.

There is no replacement for the roles that our rural healthcare facilities play in our communities; we must not stand idly by while they battle complex challenges on multiple fronts. COVID-19 has only proven how essential they will be in the future as threats of the virus will linger in the days ahead. I am rolling up my sleeves and will continue working for rural hospitals and RHC’s in Texas’ 25th District.

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