Durbin Talks Health Care Workforce Shortages With Rural Illinois Health Care Providers

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today met with Illinois members of the National Rural Health Association (NRHA) to discuss the challenges hospitals and health care providers in rural communities face.  During their meeting, Durbin heard more about how the health care workforce shortages are impacting hospitals’ ability to adequately meet the needs of patients. 

In 2020, it was estimated that Illinois will have a shortage of 15,000 registered nurses by 2025, a discrepancy that has been exacerbated by the pandemic.  To help address the shortage, Durbin secured $1 billion in the American Rescue Plan for scholarship and loan repayment awards through the National Health Service Corps and Nurse Corps to build a more diverse pipeline of clinicians and recruit more health providers to serve in shortage areas.   

Because EMS agencies are often the only health care providers in their area, 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.    

“Every day, our health care workers risk their own health and face burnout in order to care for their patients.  But with fewer people entering the health care workforce, Illinois hospitals, especially those in rural communities, are strained,” said Durbin.  “In my conversation with Illinois members of the National Rural Health Association today, we discussed how the federal government can offer support to the health care workforce to ensure that patients have access to the best care possible.” 

Attending the meeting were representatives from:

  • Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network (Princeton)
  • Illinois Rural Health Association (Columbia)
  • Genesis Medical Center (Aledo)
  • Gibson Area Hospital (Gibson City)
  • Lawrence County Memorial Hospital (Lawrenceville) 
  • Franklin Hospital (Benton)
  • Taylorville Memorial Hospital (Taylorville)
  • Wabash General Hospital (Mt. Carmel)
  • University of Illinois’ National Center for Rural Health Professionals (Rockford)
  • Arukah Behavioral Health Institute (Princeton)
  • SIU School of Medicine (Springfield)
  • Illinois Health & Hospital Association (Springfield)

To seek further solutions for rural health challenges, Durbin convened a Rural Health Summitlast August with hospitals, clinics, medical and nursing schools, and other rural health leaders to improve the pipeline of rural health care professionals.