The funds will expand testing capacity and mitigation efforts in rural hospitals.
More than $9 million in federal funding will support COVID-19 testing and mitigation efforts at 35 small rural Arkansas hospitals. Through the American Rescue Plan, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is providing $398 million through the Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program to 1,540 small rural hospitals nationwide, according to a press release.
“The Biden administration recognizes the important role that small rural hospitals have in closing the equity gap and ensuring that rural Americans can protect themselves and their communities from COVID-19,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said. “Today’s funding will help small rural hospitals continue to serve their communities in this critical role by expanding their COVID-19 testing capacity and mitigation efforts.”
State Offices of Rural Health, which work with small rural hospitals to implement quality and operational improvement efforts, will receive the funding to distribute to eligible small rural hospitals in their state. Small rural hospitals — those with fewer than 50 beds and Critical Access Hospitals — are key health care access points and trusted community resources. Hospitals will use the funds to maintain or increase COVID-19 testing, expand access to testing for rural residents and tailor mitigation efforts to reflect the needs of local communities.
“Our state-based SHIP grantees are important partners in helping to support small rural hospitals,” HRSA acting administrator Diana Espinosa said. “HRSA is committed to mitigating the spread of the virus in rural areas by supporting and empowering local providers to tailor their responses to COVID-19 to what works for their communities.”
COVID-19 cases have surged in Arkansas during the last week. The total number of active cases statewide climbed to 8,804 Wednesday. That’s roughly 3,600 more than the same day a week ago. The Arkansas Department of Health also reported 647 Arkansans were in the hospital yesterday because of the virus. That total increased by 41 over a 24-hour period.