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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Rural Health uses grant to aid local hospitals

With a new grant of $530,000, officials of the UA Rural Health Office have pledged to support several rural hospitals through training, consulting and providing better technology.

The Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility grant that has been awarded to the office for the last seven years has helped not only to improve health care at many hospitals, but also keep them in service, said Alison Hughes, Flex program director at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.

“”Seven years ago we were very concerned that many of these hospitals would close,”” Hughes said.

“”Seven years later, they are not only still open, but they are vibrant, growing hospitals that are providing really good service in their community.””

The grant helps the UA strengthen its role as a land grant university, and UA officials have been very supportive of the program, Hughes said.

“”This definitely moves the UA’s service commitment forward within the entire state,”” she said.

At least 13 hospitals in rural areas will receive assistance through the grant, which is awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The so-called Critical Access Hospitals have a limited number of beds, a 24-hour emergency room and limited patient stay, and most are at least 35 miles away from the nearest hospital.

Rural hospitals face tough challenges, including high staff turnover, nurse and doctor shortages and financial problems.

This makes it harder to implement the latest technologies or qualified staff, hospital officials said.

With the new funding, Hughes said she hopes to help hospitals implement electronic health records, which would enable the staff to pull up a person’s medical record electronically, instead of filing and searching for paper documents.

In the past, UA assistance has been an important help in serving patients, said Ellen Clark, community relations director at the Northern Cochise Community Hospital in Willcox.

The hospital often is not reimbursed enough money from health insurance companies, and the UA helps bridge this gap by providing financial and technical assistance, Clark said.

Rising drug prices and inflation have tightened the budget at Fort Yuma PHS Indian Hospital and have made UA help more important, said James Battese, the hospital’s administrative officer.

“”There is a positive working relationship with the program,”” Battese said. “”They are helpful.””

The grant will benefit hospitals in the areas of Benson, Bisbee, Douglas, Nogales, Page, Wickenburg, Willcox and Winslow, as well as the Fort Yuma Indian Health Service, the Hopi Health Care Center, the Hu Hu Kam Memorial Hospital, the Parker Indian Health Service and the Sage Memorial Hospital.

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