MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Thursday is National Rural Health Day. The annual observance aims to shine light on the importance of rural America and promotes the need for accessible, high quality health care.
Troy Regional Medical Center is dedicated to providing health care in one of Alabama’s 54 rural counties.
“Every community needs a strong stable hospital. If this hospital didn’t exist people in our community with or without insurance would have to travel a long way," said Troy Medical Center CEO Ronnie Dean.
Dean said with the support of the community they have been able to secure funding to expand services to better serve residents.
“In patient senior behavioral health care services is becoming very important to us and our regional cancer center is about to open," said Dean. “When you are diagnosed with cancer leaving your family, friends, and support system and having to travel there and back it only makes the situation worse. The community and their generosity has made this possible.”
Dean pointed out they face many of the same challenges other hospitals around the state face with declining reimbursement rates and disproportionate funding levels.
“Anytime reimbursement changes we struggle to provide all services and pay all the cost associated with what we do," said Dean. “We need the state of Alabama to really do what is required possibly to expand Medicaid and offer more coverage because those are dollars that can absolutely help struggling hospitals especially the rural hospitals.”
“It is important that we support those facilities and those providers,” said State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris.
Harris said the Alabama Department of Public Health’s Office of Primary Care and Rural Health is addressing some of issues through a number of programs.
“Many communities that just don’t have routine access to health care, very difficult for rural hospitals to stay open, it is very difficult for rural communities to have providers who want to move, live and practice in those communities," said Harris. “The hospital or nursing home may well be the largest employer in the county. We want to put the spotlight on these communities and particularly illustrate what it means to have good health care."
The OPCRH programs include the following:
Loan repayments for physicians, dentists and other health care professionals through the National Health Service Corps. No-cost recruitment of physicians using a national recruitment and retention database. Adoption of telehealth services to bring distant health care to the local community. Designation of physician and dental shortage areas for federal assistance programs. Assisting rural clinics in becoming certified to receive enhanced medical payments.
OPCRH works closely with rural hospitals and safety net providers to identify problems and provide needed technical assistance and resources. More than 150 health care providers are presently working throughout the state under programs administered by the office, dispersed among the state’s 138 community health centers, 106 rural health clinics, and other providers. The OPCRH’s services are available to any rural health care organization that is dedicated to providing accessible, high quality health care to its community.
Gov. Kay Ivey did issue a proclamation encouraging citizens to recognize the valuable services of rural health practitioners on this day.