U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) advocated the release of coronavirus emergency funding intended to support physician training programs to strengthen and maintain a healthcare workforce in rural communities.
Hyde-Smith and eight of her colleagues issued a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar warning that without assistance, rural hospitals struggling to handle increased coronavirus cases may be forced to end physician training programs.
“The Mississippi Office of Physician Workforce supports the release of these resources, which will help us meet the growing need for doctors who serve in rural areas of our state now and into the future. Mississippi needs every doctor we can get right now, so we shouldn’t allow COVID-19 to disrupt these training programs if at all possible,” Hyde-Smith said.
In their correspondence, the Senators ask Azar to release approximately $100 million from the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund to support rural hospitals that train physicians, and to commit to maintaining training programs for at least three years.
“While HHS has taken important steps to shore up the health care system, rural physician training is at risk. Rural hospitals have been significantly impacted by revenue losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and without federal action, we are concerned that some may be forced to discontinue their physician training programs to remain open,” the Senators wrote
“We urge you to commit immediate resources from the Provider Relief Fund to rural hospitals that maintain their current residency training programs. This will help rural hospitals currently training residents who are likely to go into rural practice, often near their training site, and who supply a significant portion of the future workforce serving those hospitals,” they said.
In Mississippi, there are established or developing graduate medical education programs in Jackson, Hattiesburg, Biloxi, Tupelo, Corinth, Meridian, Columbus, Southaven, Oxford, Clarksdale, Greenville, Gulfport, and Whitfield.
Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Michael Rounds (R-S.D.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) also signed the letter, which was led by Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.).
A copy of the Senators’ letter is available here.