Rural hospitals to get federal help for recruiting physicians

Critical-access hospitals will get help recruiting physicians to their rural areas through an expanded loan repayment program that is part of President Obama’s new jobs initiative for rural America.
The initiative is called the National Health Service Corps, Alexandra Wilson Pecci of HealthLeaders Media reports. The 1,300 critical-access hospitals can use federal loans to recruit new physicians. A press release from the White House states the addition of one primary care physician in a rural community generates about $1.5 million in annual revenue and creates 23 jobs annually.
Kentucky has 30 critical-access hospitals, which must be in rural areas, 35 miles from another hospital or 15 miles from another hospital in mountainous terrain, according to the Rural Assistance Center. The average CAH creates 107 jobs and generates $4.8 million in payroll annually, the White House says.
The jobs program also includes an agreement that will “link rural hospitals and clinicians to existing capital loan programs to help them buy health IT software and hardware and jump the typical rural hospital hurdle of limited access to capital and lower financial operating margins,” HealthLeaders Media reports.
A few days before announcing the jobs program, the White House Rural Council released a report that outlined recent investments in rural healthcare access. Those include placing more than 2,600 clinicians in rural communities and providing distance learning and telemedicine services to more than 2,500 rural healthcare and educational facilities. It also highlighted an investment of 500 projects across the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health care system that support rural health care. That includes 404 community-based outpatient clinics and 48 outreach clinics in rural areas.
On average, rural counties had 62 primary care doctors for every 100,000 residents in 2008, compared to 79.5 primary care doctors in urban areas, the Rural Council report said. (Read more)
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