SIKESTON - Among $1,413,917 in federal grants to improve Missouri's small rural hospitals is one slated for regional health programs.
The Missouri Primary Health Care, a Sikeston-based organization for community health centers in the state, received $713,197 through the Delta States Rural Development Network Grant Program.
According to Kevin Sexton with the group, seven community health centers in southern Missouri will use the funds to strengthen their relationships as they work together on common issues as well as their individual health care needs.
The seven community health programs include the Southeast Missouri Health Network which has medical facilities in Sikeston, New Madrid, Bernie and Kennett, the Cross Trails Medical Center based in Cape Girardeau, Southern Missouri Community Health Center at West Plains, Douglas County Community Health Services at Ava, Big Springs Medical Association at Ellington, Potosi's Great Mines Community Health Center and the Central Ozark Community Health Center which serves Phelps County.
With the grant funds, "we want to make the public more aware of the services available and to improve the quality and deliverability of the services they have," Sexton said.
Among some of the projects the health centers will work together on will encourage more health professionals to come to the area. "We would like to see more medical students do their rotations in these areas so they can see what it is like to practice in a rural community," he explained.
Cheryl White, chief executive officer for Southeast Missouri Health Network, said they will target dentists among other health professionals.
"It is hard to recruit dentists to come down here to work with Medicaid and sliding-fee patients," she said. "We hope that working with University of Missouri-Kansas City we can promote more dental students to come down to this area."
Also the funding will be used to develop and implement community-based strategies as the SEMO Health Network develops partnerships in promoting health care and disease prevention, White said. "We are already working with groups such as Mission Missouri, the American Cancer Society, area health departments and hospitals but we are looking for more ways to educate the public about ways to improve their health."
A total of $43.7 million in grants to promote rural health were announced by Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson. In addition to the local grant, the following funding will help hospitals in Missouri:
* Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (Jefferson City) awarded $420,000 through the Rural Hospital Flexibility Program - This program helps small hospitals improve their financial and clinical operations by reconfiguring operations and gaining licensure as Critical Access Hospitals (CAH), which have 25 or fewer beds. CAH status permits hospitals to receive cost-based reimbursements for Medicare acute inpatient and outpatient services. The grants also encourage the development of health networks and help improve emergency medical services in rural areas.
* Missouri Department of Health (Jefferson City) awarded $280,720 through the Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program - This program helps improve quality, patient safety and confidentiality by making investments in computers, software and technical assistance.
"President Bush is committed to strengthening our health care infrastructure in our largest cities and smallest communities," Thompson said. "These grants will help rural hospitals provide better care, promote patient safety and research more effective ways to provide health care for Missouri families."
These fiscal year 2004 grant awards are administered by HRSA's office of Rural Health Policy, and can be accessed on the Web via: http://ruralhealth.hrsa.gov.