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CEO of J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital Talks to State Lawmakers about Important Health Care Priorities

April 18, 2018

“The role of safety net providers in meeting the health care needs of rural underserved populations” was the topic at the 2018 Rural Pennsylvania Legislative Briefing at the Capitol this morning. The bi-cameral, bi-partisan briefing was hosted by Senator Lisa Baker, Majority Chairperson of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee; Representative Kathy Rapp, Majority Chairperson of the Health Committee; and Lisa Davis, Director of the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health.  

Adam Dimm, President and CEO of J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital located in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania shared insights on importance of the Medical Assistance supplemental payments as part of the 2018-2019 state budget, which include obstetric/neonatal intensive care units; trauma centers; burn centers; and critical access hospitals. Dimm highlighted the importance of continuing the payments to help ensure these services were available in rural Pennsylvania.

Dimm told lawmakers that three of the surrounding rural hospitals have closed their obstetric programs in recent years leaving women in rural Huntington County with no place to go for obstetric/neonatal care. Huntingdon County has no public transportation, making travel to distant counties to receive care challenging for expectant mothers and urged lawmakers to continue this funding to ensure continuation of these services in rural Pennsylvania.

Highlighting how J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital uses funds from the Quality Care Assessment with their heart catheterization lab and subsidization of their obstetrics program, Dimm encouraged lawmakers to reauthorization the program, which is up for sunset this year. Dimm specifically asked that lawmakers resist taking more of the resources for the commonwealth’s general fund, allowing for their broader use at the bedside.

Dimm urged policymakers to support telemedicine legislation proposed by Senator Vogel and Representative Quinn, Senate Bill 780 and House Bill 1648 respectively, saying the legislation allows health care professionals to evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients remotely using telecommunications technology and requires insurers to offer payment for it. “This model of care can be life-saving for a stroke patient in our emergency department; provide quick and efficient access to a dermatologist not available in our community; or allows our pulmonologist to manage a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patient in the patient’s home”, Dimm said.

Also highlighted as part of Dimm’s testimony was the importance of additional funding aimed at caring for opioid patients and to transition the mindset of care for these patients as a chronic illness. Dimm encouraged lawmakers to reject legislation on involuntary commitment saying, “all good evidence points to voluntary entry into treatment as the most effective road to recovery.”

Other organizations presenting included the Keystone Rural Health Consortia; Keystone Health; St. Luke’s University Health Network Rural Health Clinic; and the Centre Volunteers in Medicine. 

The comments outlined by Dimm not only reflect the challenges faced by rural hospitals, but other hospitals and health systems across the state. HAP is committed to advocating on behalf of Pennsylvania’s hospitals and health systems for Medical Assistance supplemental payments, telemedicine legislation, and addressing the opioid epidemic. For more information on HAP’s work in these areas or with questions regarding today’s legislative briefing, please contact Timothy Ohrum, HAP’s vice president, Grassroots Advocacy.

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