JAMESTOWN — Healthcare providers cited labor issues, regulation and rising costs as three challenges to delivering services in rural areas.
Rural health care leaders spoke about the challenges Monday, June 27, in a panel discussion featuring Xochitl Torres Small, undersecretary for rural development for the US Department of Agriculture; Senator John Hoeven, RN.D. ; and Erin Oban, USDA Rural Development Director of North Dakota.
Tim Eissinger, CEO of the Anne Carlsen Center, said the main challenge for Anne Carlsen is manpower and the ability to recruit dedicated people into her group of direct support professionals.
“It’s an incredibly competitive environment,” he said. “The other aspect is that we had a most recent change in our payment system which went from a cost-based system to an acuity-based system, which is good that it meets the needs unique of the people we serve, but whenever you have a major economic upheaval like us that we’ve had recently in relation to the national impact, whether it’s inflation on our new construction project, we we don’t have a pricing system that responds to the unique circumstances relating to the economy It’s serious for us because in the competitive world and we want to have the best training available, if we don’t have the mechanisms to to react puts us at a unique disadvantage.
Jamestown Regional Medical Center CEO Mike Delfs said the difference between JRMC and many hospitals is that it’s located far enough from larger geographies to be a hub, but not big enough to provide care. tertiary. He said JRMC employs many surgeons, but it is difficult to recruit a surgeon in Jamestown and get all the support that goes with a surgeon, including nurses and equipment.
He said inflation is also a challenge.
“We just finished our budget,” he said. “We had planned for a 10% increase. We’ll have to shop around to get the 10%.
Alan O’Neil, CEO of Unity Medical Center in Grafton, North Dakota, said many rural health care providers have had to deploy travel nurses over the past two years.
“It really blew our budgets,” he said.
He praised the USDA for creating opportunities for rural health care providers to construct new buildings and facilities, which impact communities. He said buildings are safer and the culture of employees and patients changes once they move to new facilities.
“It has helped with employee recruitment and retention,” he said.
Erik Christensen, CEO of the Heat of America Medical Center in Rugby, North Dakota, said rural health care providers are grappling with increased regulation. He said the regulations appeared to be “one size fits all”.
“We don’t have the spare idea to deal with all the regulations to do all this work,” he said.
Torres Small said one of the challenges of rural development is that it doesn’t directly impact the workforce and doesn’t work with regulations for healthcare providers. She asked rural health care providers how rural development funding helps solve problems and how this can be improved.
Hoeven said rural development is vital for rural healthcare providers. He said a rural health care facility is a major employer in smaller communities, and funding helps the workforce in rural facilities become more efficient.
“You can’t bring people in if you don’t have health care,” he said.
Eissinger said the Anne Carlsen Center had the option of moving to a more populous city, but it was never considered. He said Rural Development is supporting the initiative to keep the Anne Carlsen Center in Jamestown and helping build a new facility which will be located directly east of the JRMC.
The Anne Carlsen Center received a $27 million low-interest loan in February under the USDA’s Rural Development Community Facilities Grant and Loan Program to build the facility south of Interstate 94.
Eissinger said rural development grants also help fund technology that helps people with developmental disabilities and special needs become more independent. O’Neil said about 20% of people receive care from a rural provider. He said there are trends for people moving to rural areas because they can now work remotely.
“I think it’s important that we keep the programs and continue to look for ways to improve and grow them,” he said. “I don’t think the rural world is heading where we thought it was years ago.”
Hoeven said telehealth needs to be an area to focus on. Hoeven helped introduce the Creating Opportunities for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2021, which will further expand coverage of telehealth services through Medicare, make certain flexibilities of telehealth that have been put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic and make it easier for patients to communicate with their doctor. by: