April 19, 2020

WV healthcare providers need more support | The Herald-Dispatch

It’s no secret West Virginia is one of the most naturally beautiful rural states in the nation. Our majestic mountains, rolling hills, valleys and rivers make for the perfect escape. However, it’s not without its challenges. The wild and wonderful features of our state can make travel and infrastructure a challenge, especially for those who live in our most remote locations. In turn, our rural communities can sometimes be the most challenging to serve.

We see this as we fight to get reliable broadband access to every home in the state and equal education resources in every school, in every county. Right now, I’m fighting tooth and nail to ensure our rural hospitals and health care providers get their fair share of funding as we fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Already, many of our rural health care providers operate on shoestring budgets to provide the best possible care to the populations they serve. These hospitals and health care providers throughout West Virginia are the first line of defense in their communities. In the medical field there is an idea called the “golden hour,” and it states that the first hour after a traumatic injury, such as a heart attack or stroke, are the most critical for a patient’s successful treatment.

When we allow any rural hospital to close, we risk increasing the travel time for patients in these communities. That is unacceptable, especially as we battle the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why I’ve been advocating for dedicated funding for our rural health care providers and increased telehealth options to fill the void through this uncertain time.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the first $30 billion of hospital funding to fight COVID-19, and West Virginia received less than 1% of that funding despite our designation as the state with the most at-risk population by the Kaiser Family Foundation. So I urged HHS to use a new formula that prioritizes funding for rural providers as they distribute the remaining $70 billion in funding. Without a change to the formula, West Virginia will continue to get pennies on the dollar. That’s unacceptable.

I’m also fighting to ensure publicly owned hospitals are able to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program loans through the Small Business Administration. I believe that was the intent of the CARES Act, and I called on Senate leadership to clarify that so these hospitals have the opportunity to stay afloat through the COVID-19 pandemic. Our rural hospitals cannot afford to wait, and we cannot afford to let them close their doors during this pandemic.

West Virginians are strong and we will get through this together. I will do my part by continuing to fight to ensure every rural health care provider in our state has the resources they need to provide the best care possible to serve the patients in their communities.

By:  Senator Joe Manchin
Source: The Herald-Dispatch