Durbin Holds Roundtable on Rural Health Care Challenges, Solutions with Quincy-Area Medical Providers

During the roundtable, Durbin highlighted his new “Roadmap to Grow Illinois’ Rural Health Workforce,” which tackles the state’s shortage of health care providers in rural areas

QUINCY – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today hosted a rural health care roundtable discussion with leaders of local Quincy-area medical institutions to discuss the challenges that patients and providers in rural communities face.  Durbin spoke about his new “Roadmap to Grow Illinois’ Rural Health Workforce,” a partnership with hospitals, community health centers, medical and nursing schools, community colleges, dentists, physicians, and nurses to organize efforts and provide new funding to address health care workforce shortages and staffing crises in rural Illinois.

“Every day, our health care workers risk their own health and face burnout in order to care for their patients.  This workforce strain can jeopardize access to care, especially in rural communities,” said Durbin.  “Today I convened a roundtable with Quincy-area hospitals to discuss a path forward, including proposals in my Roadmap to Grow Illinois’ Rural Health Workforce that will help build our local pipeline of health professionals to help serve more patients.  I am dedicated to being a federal partner to our Illinois providers to address the health challenges facing patients in rural communities.”

During the meeting, the hospital leaders emphasized that workforce shortages continue to be a barrier to providing care.  Durbin has worked to address the shortage of health professionals by securing $1 billion in the American Rescue Plan for scholarship and loan repayment awards through the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) and Nurse Corps to build a more diverse pipeline of clinicians and recruit more doctors, nurses, dentists, and behavioral health providers to serve in rural and urban shortage areas.  To ensure the NHSC and Nurse Corps have adequate funding, Durbin introduced the bipartisan Restoring America’s Health Care Workforce and Readiness Act with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) to reauthorize the mandatory funding for NHSC and nearly triple the annual funding level from $310 million to $825 million annually.

Durbin also spoke about his efforts to support EMS agencies as they are often the only health care providers in rural areas.  In February, Durbin introduced the bipartisan SIREN Reauthorization Act, legislation that would extend funding through SIREN Act grants to rural fire and EMS agencies nationwide. The funding, which was created through Durbin’s SIREN Act, goes toward supporting EMS agencies in training and recruiting staff, conducting certification courses, and purchasing equipment.  Since the SIREN Act’s passage in 2018, EMS agencies across Illinois have had more resources to provide for their communities.  For instance, Nauvoo, Illinois’ EMS agency has been able to increase their service area in Hancock County to cover 360 calls per year, up from the previous 140.

Leaders from Quincy’s Blessing Hospital went on to thank Durbin for his efforts to advocate for the hospital by securing a $710,000 Congressionally Directed Spending award in the Fiscal Year 2023 omnibus appropriations law to acquire a mobile medical vehicle.  The mobile medical vehicle, which is slated to be operational later this year, will travel around rural areas in Western Illinois to provide physical exams and utilize telehealth capabilities to deliver advanced diagnostic services like EKGs, X-rays, ultrasounds, and lab services.

A photo of the meeting is available here.   

Attending the meeting were representatives from:

  • Brian Canfield, President and CEO, Blessing Hospital (Quincy)
  • Dr. Chris Solaro, Chief Medical Officer, Blessing Hospital (Quincy)
  • Dr. Mary Barthel, Chief Quality and Safety Officer, Blessing Hospital (Quincy)
  • Karla Paris, Associate Chief Nursing Officer, Blessing Hospital (Quincy)
  • Brenda Beshears, President and CEO, Blessing-Rieman College of Nursing & Health Sciences (Quincy)
  • Ada Bair, CEO, Memorial Hospital (Carthage)