MONTGOMERY, Ala (EETV) - The Alabama Department of Public Health, Office of Primary Care and Rural Health (OPCRH) and the Alabama Hospital Association, are honored to join the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH) and other stakeholders in recognizing the importance of rural health during National Rural Health Day on November 16. This annual observance emphasizes the importance of rural America, and promotes the need for accessible, high quality health care.
This year, one of Alabama’s many fine health professionals, Dr. John Waits of Centreville, has been selected by NOSORH as a “Community Star” for his many contributions to health care in rural communities. The annual “Community Stars” publication honors and gives a personal voice to rural people, providers, advocates, and communities across the country. These stories document a few shining examples of service and dedication to the people who call rural America home.
Rural health care professionals, hospitals, county health departments, and clinics are dedicated to providing health care in Alabama’s 54 rural counties, which are home to almost 2 million people. These rural communities have unique health care needs and challenges, including the distance to nearest health care facility. In addition, these counties have a population that is generally older, and with health conditions that require a greater need for health care.
“Alabama’s hospitals are often the largest employers in a community and provide invaluable health care services,” said Dr. Donald E. Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association. “Not only do residents benefit from having the hospital services, but there are also doctors, pharmacists and other health care professionals in the area as a result of the hospital’s presence. It’s not easy keeping good health care in a rural area, but our folks do a terrific job, and we are pleased to join with the Office of Rural Health in celebrating their service.”
Rural hospitals are the economic foundation of many rural communities, but they are being threatened with declining reimbursement rates and disproportionate funding levels that make it more difficult to serve their residents. The OPCRH is dedicated to addressing these issues through a number of programs, such as:
Loan repayments for physicians, dentists and other health care professionals through the National Health Service Corps
No-cost recruitment of physicians using a national recruitment and retention database
Adoption of telehealth services to bring distant health care to the local community
Placement of foreign-trained physicians through an immigration waiver program
Assisting rural clinics in becoming certified to receive enhanced medical payments
In addition, OPCRH works closely with rural hospitals and safety net providers to identify problems and provide needed technical assistance and resources. More than 150 health care providers are presently working throughout the state under programs administered by the office, dispersed among the state’s 125 community health centers, 100 rural health clinics, and other providers.
The OPCRH’s services are available to any rural health care organization that is dedicated to providing accessible, high quality of care health care to its community.
“Our greatest satisfaction comes from making a difference in the lives of people,” notes Chuck Lail, director of the office. “That is the sole purpose of our office.”