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HAP, Pa. Hospitals Urge Support for Rural Health

August 03, 2023

HAP and Pennsylvania’s hospital community today highlighted the value of rural health care and the unique pressures rural hospitals face.

This morning, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania hosted a hearing in Bradford County on rural hospital and health care sustainability. The panelists noted that there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” model for rural health care, but that the commonwealth needs to take action to ensure the future of these facilities.

Panelists from the rural hospital community included Dr. Jill Owens, president, Upper Allegheny Health System, Tom Kurtz, president and CEO, Chan Soon-Shiong Medical Center at Windber, Wendy Lazo, president, St. Luke’s Hospital—Miners Campus.

Among the key takeaways:

  • Overall challenges:  Pennsylvania’s rural hospitals care for patients with complex medical needs who may struggle to travel for care. Broader hospital financial concerns related to staffing, retention, and the overall volume of care are intensified for rural areas.
    • A recent HAP survey found that Pennsylvania’s rural hospitals are struggling to fill 39 percent of registered nurse positions.
  • By the numbers:  Over the course of a year, rural hospitals have provided $14 billion in economic impact ($8 billion direct, $6 billion ripple) and supported more than 69,500 jobs.
  • Concerns about staffing ratios:  The rural hospital leaders said a proposal for mandated nurse staffing ratios would be devastating for their facilities, taking away their flexibility to adjust for the acuity of their patients and other emergency needs.
  • The stakes:  Financial pressures put access to care at risk in rural communities, especially when it comes to maternity, obstetrics, and other medical specialties. Supporting rural care helps ensure these services are available close to home.
  • Quotable:   “In addition to providing essential care, rural hospitals are often the bedrocks of their communities. In most cases, hospitals are not only a significant source of pride for the patients they serve, they are also primary economic drivers,” Kate Slatt, HAP's vice president, innovative payment and care delivery, said in prepared remarks.

The hearing also included discussion about the next steps for the rural emergency hospital designation, Pennsylvania’s Rural Health Model, and other new hospital models that were established last year (micro-hospitals, tele-emergency department, outpatient emergency department).

HAP continues to advocate for resources that ensure rural hospitals can deliver outstanding care in their communities now and into the future. HAP also supports policies and legislation that benefit rural facilities related to telehealth, access to substance use disorder care, the workforce, and professional licensure.

For additional information, contact Kate Slatt, vice president, innovative payment and care delivery.