Mississippi Rural Health Task Force holds first meeting

MS Rural Health Task Force

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) -Governor Phil Bryant is giving a charge to a newly-created Rural Health Care Task Force. He’s asking the group to consider ways to reduce the threat of more hospital closures and improve access to care. The task force chairman notes that there is no silver bullet answer but they’re hoping to find focused solutions.

“We’re not here to talk about the issues that we all know exist,' said chairman Ryan Kelly. "We all know what the problems in Mississippi’s health are. We all know we’re 50th in a lot of categories we don’t want to be 50th in. We’re not going to spend our time rehashing what we already know.”

And one topic was taken off the table for the group.

“It’s my thought that this committee, this task force should not focus on Medicaid expansion because it could eat up all of our time and we’d still be sitting here with the same problems,” added Kelly.

Still, many of the comments from members still referenced the impact of reduced Medicaid reimbursements have on the small hospitals and providers.

One idea was about “right-sizing” rural hospitals to better fit the current needs of the communities where they’re located.

“It’s a comical example but we’re not going to do neurosurgery in a small community of 2,000 people obviously," said Trilogy Healthcare Solutions Managing Partner Toby Butler. "That’s an extreme example. But one of the primary services, to me, we want to sustain is emergency services. If you’re having chest pain on Saturday night or if your child breaks their leg on a Friday night, you want to know that you don’t have to drive 70 or 50 miles to get to an ER to get the care that they need.”

They also discussed determining where the true gaps in care exist.

“Do we need an emergency room somewhere?" said Kelly. "Do we need access to care where we don’t have one? Which I can almost assure you is yes, somewhere.”

Telehealth and emergency transports will also be discussed as the task force continues its work. The task force will be required to produce a report for Governor Bryant by the end of September.

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