Rural healthcare access showing signs of improvement over the last year

Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 5:17 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 17, 2022 at 6:27 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Rural parts of Louisiana have struggled to get quality healthcare resources for a while and COVID shined a bright light on the problem. But, members of the Louisiana Rural Healthcare Association said the money they were given after last year’s session went a long way.

“We also were fortunate to enter into a two-million-dollar performance-based energy efficiency contract with Seamans in 2020. And this allowed us to upgrade some water management fixtures, lighting, electric meter consolidation and plant controls. It also allowed us to replace our steam boilers, which was a great thing. They were replaced with a couple of tankless hot water heaters,” said a representative of the association.

“Certainly, the focus for me as chairman and many members of the committee who live in rural areas...they just don’t get the same access to care that people in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Shreveport or Monroe do,” said Rep. Larry Bagley (R), who chairs the House Health and Welfare Committee.

The association thanked the committee for all their help but said there are still many hurdles to get through, like the need for more doctors and improvements in Telemedicine.

What’s really going to get the ball rolling is expanding access to broadband. Chairman Bagley said we can expect to see the groundwork being laid out over the next year.

“They actually haven’t started the clock on the five years yet to have it done. But there are going to be significant changes over the next year putting up towers and things like that. So, once that goes in that will help the rural areas probably more than anything. Urban areas have broadband, it’s just where I live and other places. We didn’t really realize how bad it was until COVID and school was out, and kids didn’t have anywhere to do their homework,” Rep. Bagley added.

The committee plans on exploring new ways to allocate more funds to the association in next year’s session and plans on having their next meeting sometime after the Christmas holidays.

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