Rural Health Roundtable held in Atlantic


September 10th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

A gathering of health care professionals and persons with an interest in rural health care participated in a Rural Health Roundtable held in Atlantic, Friday.

Dr. Mary Wakefield, HRSA Administrator

Keynote speaker for the event was Dr. Mary K. Wakefield, R.N., Administrator of the U-S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) under the Health and Human Services Division (HHS). Wakefield, who was appointed to HRSA by President Obama in 2009, spoke with regard to the Obama Administration’s Rural Council, which was created in June, 2011, and  is led by U-S Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, the former Governor of Iowa.  Wakefield said its new initiatives are aimed at strengthening rural health care infrastructure across the U-S.

She says when he was in Iowa earlier this Summer for a Rural Economic Summitt, President Obama announced two initiatives. An expanded eligibility of the National Health Service Corps, which offers an opportunity for those who are willing to work in under-served rural and urban areas, to have their loans repaid or receive scholarships. She says that will allow hospitals to recruit primary care physicians, practitioners, physician assistants, psychologists and others.

The other initiative, is with regard to Health Information Technology and Jobs Training.  It focuses on the way the use HIT can be expanded in rural areas. She says this past week, $12-million was awarded in rural HIT development nationwide, through HRSA.  $300,000 of that went to two providers in Iowa: Van Buren County Hospital, and the Wright Medical Center. Wakefield also spoke with regard to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). She said there are a number of new provisions relevant to small communities, which are designed to improve the health work force infrastructure, help support access to health care services that target chronic illness, and focuses on illness prevention.”

Wakefield said since 2009, Iowa has received $114-million in direct funding, primarily through the ACA. She says of that, $56-million is directed to community health centers. $15-million out of that is for construction and critical renovation of those facilities.  $19-million dollars has been targeted towards the health of women, infants and children. $11.4-million has been allocated to support the next generation of health care providers through partnerships with education. $8-million is coming into the state to support rural health grants. Another $7-million is in the form of Health Information Technology grants to the Iowa Foundation for Medical Care. $8.4-million is for the Iowa Department of Public Health for its Information Health Exchange program.

$190,000 in Quality Improvement grants has also been given to the Cass County Memorial Hospital in Atlantic from HRSA‘s Office of Rural Health Policy.  Wakefield said input from ongoing roundtables such as that which was held in Atlantic,  will help HRSA compile a report for the President’s Rural Council. The report will be submitted to him in October, along with a copy for Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U-S Department of Health and Human Services.

A report on some of the preliminary work that has been accomplished “Jobs and Economic Security for Rural America,“ can be found at

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