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'Health Care Challenges for Rural Communities'

PRINCETON — About 40 health care providers turned out Friday for a Bureau County legislative forum on “Health Care Challenges for Rural Communities."

The event was hosted by the Illinois Rural Health Association (IRHA), Perry Memorial Hospital and the Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network at Perry.

The forum was designed for local health care providers and community leaders to learn more about legislation in both Washington, D.C. and in Springfield, and for lawmakers to gain a better understanding of local needs.

Speaking on events in Illinois, Rep. Don Moffitt, R-Galesburg, told about the Illinois House's Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Task Force that held meetings all across the state.

Moffitt said the final report is coming, but there are three goals set for EMS.

First, one size does not fit all, and the needs vary for different regions in the state. Second, do no harm to the current system.

"Some of our EMS providers are in danger of being regulated out of business," Moffitt said.

Finally, be practical and use common sense on new laws and regulations.

"What is the financial cost to implement? What would be the time demand, especially on volunteers?" Moffitt said.

Moffitt talked about House Bill 5880, which was just signed by Gov. Pat Quinn. The legislation will require one EMT and one First Responder to staff an ambulance that is covering a district will fewer than 10,000 residents. This will replace the current requirement of two EMTs, which require more training hours than First Responders.

The legislation will also save time by allowing one person to take the ambulance to the scene and the other worker to meet them at the scene.

Moffitt said an issue recently came before the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules. The proposed change would have hurt hospitals by denying for an entire in-patient admission if a hospital-acquired condition occurred during admission.

"It would have been a $200,000 hit for PMH," Moffitt said.

Moffitt said the hospitals spoke up, and the proposal was unanimously defeated because it wasn't practical.

"The warning is: Don't let our guard down," he said.

Greg Scott of the state EMS Advisory Board, said the EMS system as a whole is becoming a very fragile. With the socioeconomic changes, the number of volunteers and workplaces are dwindling in rural communities, and there's not the same pool of volunteers on which to rely.

Also is the impact of changing training requirements. Scott said the current number of hours needed for an EMT-basic is 110 hours, but there is a proposal to increase to 150-190 hours plus 120 hours continuing education every four years.

"You can see the reason that a lot of individuals in our rural areas are not willing to volunteer," he said.

Scott said there also is a need for dedicated funding for EMS. He talked about a piece of federal legislation that would create grant programs for EMS providers by adding a voluntary check box program to tax forms.

Speaking on events in Washington, D.C., was Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-11th District.)
Kinzinger said the nation's financial problems have been coming for years. He said there is a concern Medicare will become like Medicaid.

"We want to make sure that senior citizens have great access to health care," he said. "I'd much rather make tough decisions today, then I would to see a complete failure of the system in 10 years."

Regarding EMTs, Kinzinger said he has drawn up House Resolution 4124, which would make it easier for a veteran with EMS training to transition more easily into EMS work as a civilian.

Also speaking was Margaret Vaughn, IRHA executive director. Vaughn said some good legislation passed, including bills that will allow each physician to oversee five physician's assistants instead of the current two, and headway on the Nurse Licensure Compact, which would eliminate duplicated unnecessary state licenses.

On the downside, Vaughn said the Medicaid Reform legislation changed how reimbursement is made for implantable contraceptives, which will have an immediate effect on rural hospitals.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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