Rural health care still unaddressed

Daily Editorial Board

Acohort of researchers, including some from the University of Minnesota, recently wrapped up a national survey of obstetric care in rural hospitals. The resulting study, published in the Journal of Rural Health, noted significant staffing challenges for obstetrics care. 
 
In rural hospitals with low birth volumes, midwives and nurses who specialize in obstetrics were less likely to be hired, leaving labor and delivery needs to general surgeons, family doctors and unspecialized nurses. 
 
Katy Kozhimannil, a University researcher who participated in the study, wrote that these findings should be part of a discussion about what can be done to improve the current state of rural health care.
 
Fortunately, that discussion is already taking place at the Minnesota Capitol. In January, we endorsed a bill that would provide student loan relief to new health care professionals who work in rural communities in Minnesota. That bill, while still active, has not yet passed either the House or the Senate. 
 
The bill was recently expanded to include a wider array of health care workers who can participate in the loan forgiveness program. Obstetric care professionals would be included in the program.
 
Just as obstetric care professionals are needed to meet rural area’s health care needs, so are many other types of health workers. This remains an important bill to pass. For the sake of students, the health care field and rural communities, we urge lawmakers to take action on this bill soon.