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March 4, 2014

House bills locked on rural medical care

MILLEDGEVILLE — Two interrelated House bills recently introduced the spotlight to Georgia's waning rural health care facility access and medical workforce.

State Rep. Rusty Kidd (I-Milledgeville) and state Rep. Mickey Channell (R-Greensboro) presented House Resolution 1528 that would create a Georgia rural medical care joint study committee addressing the dire situation of rural hospitals.

The resolution states that “rural hospitals in Georgia are economic engines of a community” and that “many rural hospitals have closed in recent years or are at risk of closing.”

“My thought was why wait until they close to try to figure out something?” Kidd said.

The 10-member joint study committee, according to the House resolution, would be comprised of four members of the Senate and House together with two Gov. Nathan Deal appointees.

Tasks of the proposed study include identifying the number of rural patients requiring emergency room care, length of hospital stays and how often patients transfer to another medical facility.

“Hopefully, we'd come up with some answers to keep these facilities from closing,” Kidd said. “They might not be a hospital as the definition goes today.”

One repurposing possibility listed in the resolution language is the establishment of “triage” medical facilities offering emergency care to serve the “immediate and overnight” needs of the surrounding counties and communities.

These facilities could provide for the stabilization of patients and later transport them to a hospital if necessary, according to the House draft.

Kidd said keeping a few beds in a small community makes a health care and economic difference.

“That's my idea behind it if nothing else to have a few beds for people to stay there over 23 hours,” he said. “You'd have a place for doctors and nurses to work, and the community would have a medical facility.”

Another rural health legislative piece is the modified House Bill 998 as presented by the House Committee on Health and Human Services.

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