Posted on: 11/17/23
This week we celebrate National Rural Health Week. In fact, more than 61 million people call rural America home, with 86% of our nation’s land considered rural.
Nationally, healthcare leaders are recognizing the importance of our rural hospitals and healthcare providers. More importantly, the collective work of the 1,300 critical access and 900 rural PPS hospitals across our country. In Oklahoma, 39 critical access hospitals are providing care in all four corners of our state. And Oklahoma leads the nation with three Rural Emergency Hospitals in active operation.
Beyond our rural hospitals, we must also recognize the value our rural health clinics play in support of the health of our communities. Our nation has seen a tremendous growth in the number of students coming from rural communities entering our various federal pipeline programs for health professions. The number in our pipeline has grown 114% in the last two years from students who call rural America home. Although we have seen a growth in the number of students from rural communities interested in health professions, rural America still faces a disproportionate shortage of qualified healthcare workers, with 70% of our nation’s Health Professional Shortage Areas in rural communities.
At OHA, our board recognizes the value of our rural members as evidenced by its importance in our strategic priorities for the next three years. Because of the work of the association and its efforts to increase Medicaid reimbursement to the average commercial rate, the opportunity to strengthen the finances of rural hospitals is within reach. We want to thank the unified voice of the association and our legislative leaders for their work in support of our rural hospitals.
Let’s make no mistake about it, challenges still remain for healthcare providers in rural America. The growth of Medicare Advantage perhaps presents the biggest threat. OHA will continue to work with our partners at the American Hospital Association to educate our congressional delegation and all members of Congress on the challenges MA plans present to rural America. As well as other challenges that need addressing.
As we take time to pause on the significance of Rural Health Week, let’s also take time to recognize the success OHA’s rural members have achieved. The work done to improve health and healthcare in rural Oklahoma is a testament to the dedicated leaders, caregivers, local trustees and team members in our rural hospitals. Thank you for your tireless efforts in support of the health of your communities.
President & CEO