Durbin hosts rural health discussion at Blessing


Sen. Dick Durbin was in Quincy Monday to discuss rural health initiatives. — Submitted photo

QUINCY — U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) hosted a rural health care roundtable discussion Monday with leaders of local Quincy-area medical institutions to discuss the challenges that patients and providers in rural communities face. 

Durbin spoke about the new “Roadmap to Grow Illinois’ Rural Health Workforce,” a partnership with hospitals, community health centers, medical and nursing schools, community colleges, dentists, physicians, and nurses to organize efforts and provide new funding to address health care workforce shortages and staffing crises in rural Illinois.

“Every day, our health care workers risk their own health and face burnout in order to care for their patients.  This workforce strain can jeopardize access to care, especially in rural communities,” said Durbin.  “I am dedicated to being a federal partner to our Illinois providers to address the health challenges facing patients in rural communities.”

During the meeting, the hospital leaders emphasized that workforce shortages continue to be a barrier to providing care.  Durbin said he hopes to help offset the shortage of health professionals by securing $1 billion in the American Rescue Plan for scholarship and loan repayment awards through the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) and Nurse Corps to build a more diverse pipeline of clinicians and recruit more doctors, nurses, dentists, and behavioral health providers to serve in rural and urban shortage areas. 

To ensure the NHSC and Nurse Corps have adequate funding, Durbin introduced the bipartisan Restoring America’s Health Care Workforce and Readiness Act with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) to reauthorize the mandatory funding for NHSC and nearly triple the annual funding level from $310 million to $825 million annually.

Durbin also spoke about efforts to support EMS agencies as they are often the only health care providers in rural areas.  In February, he introduced the bipartisan SIREN Reauthorization Act, legislation that would extend funding through SIREN Act grants to rural fire and EMS agencies nationwide. The funding, which was created through the SIREN Act, goes toward supporting EMS agencies in training and recruiting staff, conducting certification courses, and purchasing equipment.  Since the SIREN Act’s passage in 2018, EMS agencies across Illinois have had more resources to provide for their communities.  For instance, Nauvoo’s EMS agency has been able to increase its service area in Hancock County to cover 360 calls per year, up from the previous 140.

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