Rural hospitals struggled with a unique set of challenges long before the pandemic, and COVID-19 placed even more of a burden on these already-stressed health care providers.
To assist Arizona's rural hospitals, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration has awarded the University of Arizona Health Sciences $1.35 million to support the Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program at the Center for Rural Health in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.
The source of the funding is the federal government's coronavirus relief bill, which allocated $150 million for hospitals in the United States eligible to receive assistance from the Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program. In Arizona, 16 rural hospitals are eligible to receive as much as $71,500 over the next 18 months to prevent, prepare for and respond to COVID-19.
"This funding is a much-needed source of good news for rural hospitals," said Leila Barraza, assistant professor and public health lawyer at the College of Public Health. "These rural facilities continue to serve Arizonans traveling long distances for primary, preventive, emergency and inpatient care."
Barraza is principal investigator of the funding initiative.
The Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program allows the Center for Rural Health to assist with the following:
- Ensure patient and hospital personnel safety to minimize COVID-19 exposure.
- Address emergent COVID-19 issues, including testing, lab, patient and community education.
- Restore, sustain and strengthen hospital capacity and staffing levels by reinstating and reassigning providers, hiring new providers or contractors and/or increasing staff time to respond to coronavirus and continue hospital operations.
- Complete minor alteration and renovation to maximize isolation precautions and facilitate telehealth.
- Purchase equipment, including health information technology and telehealth equipment, vehicles, triage tents and mobile medical units.
- Purchase supplies, including COVID-19 therapeutics and vaccines, when available.
"As we adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic, rural hospitals in Arizona face greater challenges with fewer resources," said UArizona President Dr. Robert C. Robbins. "The funding from HRSA will give rural hospitals critical support to build capacity to mitigate this pandemic in the communities they serve. The CARES Act provides much-needed support to rural hospitals, and I am proud the University of Arizona can assist those in need."
"The HRSA award to support our University of Arizona Center for Rural Health's Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program illustrates how academic medicine-community partnerships align with our land-grant university mission and underscores our commitment to the health providers and facilities so critical to Arizonans living in rural areas," said Dr. Michael D. Dake, senior vice president of UArizona Health Sciences.
"Combined with our other HRSA and state-supported initiatives, like the State Office of Rural Health and the Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program, we are able to quickly leverage this new HRSA funding to address unmet rural health needs during the COVID-19 pandemic in 16 rural Arizona hospitals," added health policy expert Dr. Daniel Derksen, director of the Center for Rural Health and associate vice president at UArizona Health Sciences.
A version of this story originally appeared on the UArizona Health Sciences website: https://uahs.arizona.edu/news/uarizona-health-sciences-awarded-135-million-covid-19-relief-funds-rural-hospitals-arizona.