FHA’s ‘Rural Hospital Day’ facilitates dialogue between rural hospital leaders and lawmakers
Image via the Florida Hospital Association.

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The event included nine leaders representing five rural hospitals from around the state.

Hospital leaders from Florida’s rural counties gathered in Tallahassee on Tuesday to participate in the Florida Hospital Association’s inaugural Rural Hospital Day and shine a spotlight on rural hospital issues throughout the state.

Orchestrated by FHA, the one-day event gave rural hospital executives an opportunity to meet with legislators individually and attend committee hearings at the Capitol. The event included nine leaders representing five rural hospitals from around the state, including AdventHealth Wauchula, Doctors Memorial Hospital, Jackson Hospital, Lake Butler Hospital and Madison County Memorial Hospital.

Attendees met with legislators to bring awareness to challenges facing Florida’s rural communities and advocate for important policies and programs intended to strengthen health care in the state’s rural areas. Rural hospital leaders met with Reps. Alex Andrade, Kaylee Tuck, Patt Maney, Jason Shoaf and Allison Tant, as well as Sens. Corey Simon and Jay Trumbull.

On the agenda was generating support for funding the Rural Hospital Capital Improvement Grant Program, which offers essential capital to rural hospitals for updating and hardening their facilities.

In 2023, the Florida Legislature awarded $10 million to 19 hospital applicants of the grant program, which had otherwise not been funded since 2008. However, FHA conducted a rural hospital survey that found that an additional $29 million is needed this year to support quality technology, equipment and repairs to ensure rural hospitals can continue providing the highest level of care in their communities.

This Session, FHA is advocating for this grant program to be funded at $10 million recurring to support the ongoing needs of these facilities to serve their local communities.

Florida’s 23 rural hospitals support over 1,000 beds and employ nearly 6,000 people. These systems are pillars of hope in their communities for thousands of Floridians who depend on them daily for care.

Now is a critical time for Florida hospital leaders and the Florida Legislature to prioritize the Sunshine State’s health care delivery system. The state’s population continues to grow — increasing the demand for health care now and into the future. And that’s why small and rural hospitals need access to every available resource to thrive.

The modernization of the rural hospital framework, as well as improvements to facilities, technologies and equipment can make a sizable impact. With continued support, Florida’s rural hospitals can continue delivering exceptional lifesaving trauma, acute treatment, labor and delivery, and long-term care services.

In addition to the Rural Hospital Capital Improvement Grant Program, members reiterated to state legislators their support of HB 309 and SB 644, which leverage a new Medicare provider type that would allow for rural emergency hospitals to maintain Medicare reimbursement and focus on delivering emergency and outpatient care.

SB 644, sponsored by Simon, and HB 309, sponsored by Shoaf, have been successfully moving through committee. FHA said this marks an encouraging milestone toward continuing to advance Florida’s rural health care delivery system.

Nationally, 136 hospitals shuttered between 2010-2021 due to the unique constraints rural hospitals experience. FHA and rural hospital leaders are working hard to ensure this does not become the reality for hospitals in Florida’s rural communities. Brooke G. Donaldson, CEO of Jackson Hospital, FHA Board Rural Hospital Trustee and Chair of FHA’s Rural Hospital Committee, highlighted the critical role rural hospitals play in strengthening Florida’s continuum of care.

“Not only are rural hospitals vital to the lifeforce and wellbeing of their communities, they are also an indispensable part of Florida’s health care continuum,” Donaldson said. “Rural Hospital Day creates a necessary forum dedicated to fostering dialogue related to policies and programs that will significantly bolster health care in the Sunshine State’s small and rural communities.”

FHA continues to stand at the forefront of critical conversations to guarantee the long-term success of rural health care systems.  Rural Hospital Day is a part of the ongoing advocacy work FHA is leading to garner additional support for the improvement and sustainability of Florida’s rural hospitals.

Critical infrastructure is paramount, according to Mary C. Mayhew, President and CEO of the Florida Hospital Association. The framework rural Florida hospitals are advocating for today will advance high-quality health care in rural Florida communities for future generations.

“It is difficult to overstate the invaluable role that rural hospitals play in their communities,” Mayhew said. “As Florida’s population continues to age and grow, we must continue to think innovatively about how we can fortify our rural hospitals to preserve access to quality care in our rural communities — for all stages of life and for generations to come.”

FHA remains optimistic about the positive impact these initiatives can have in Florida’s small and rural communities. The Association will continue to work alongside hospital leaders and state lawmakers to ensure Florida maintains the best and brightest in its health care workforce and is the epicenter for world-class health care.

The Florida Legislature’s commitment to bolstering rural health care this legislative session reflects a broader dedication to ensuring communities of all sizes have modern, sophisticated heath care for their residents that will span generations.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of FloridaPolitics.com, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.

One comment

  • MH/Duuuval

    February 7, 2024 at 11:45 am

    The rural hospital and clinic lobby in North Carolina made the case last year or two that expanding Medicaid would be a lifeline for them, and the MAGA NC Legislature finally got the message.

    What Florida MAGAmites are doing is talking out of both sides of their mouths. Folks in rural area are citizens who deserve adequate access to health care services without having to drive to a metropolis.

    With due respect to Sen. Passidomo’s attempted workaround, expanding Medicaid remains the first step in helping rural medical services survive. Increasing the pool of medical professionals will complement Medicaid expansion but not substitute for it.

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