Missouri, Kansas to receive millions in federal aid to boost rural COVID-19 response

Posted at 11:12 AM, Jul 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-12 19:38:33-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The federal government is going to provide Kansas with more than $23 million and Missouri with more than $8 million to support rural hospitals with COVID-19 testing and mitigation efforts.

The funds will support 32 rural hospitals in Missouri and 91 in Kansas, 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 against COVID-19,” said U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Bacerra.

The push for funding, which is to go toward testing and mitigation efforts, comes as new variants of the virus spread in rural areas.

Missouri has been identified by health officials as a COVID-19 hot spot in recent weeks, particularly for the delta variant. Some hospitals have started to run low on supplies and other areas have reinstated public health advisories.

Mercy Hospital in Springfield experienced a shortage of ventilators and recently announced the opening of a sixth COVID-19 ward.

Missouri is also lagging behind the rest of the country in vaccination rates, though the new funds won’t focus on vaccination.

The release stated instead rural 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.”

One of the 91 Kansas hospitals participating in the program is Morris County Hospital in Council Grove.

Registered nurse Stephanie Frazier said the extra resources are needed with the rise of delta variant cases of COVID-19.

"I don’t know if everyone is getting tested, but we are definitely seeing some more transmission out in the community," Frazier said.

Frazier said the hospital would likely use the funding to get rapid testing available in its outreach clinics.

"Having some of those testing abilities in our outreach clinics that are rapid I think would be very beneficial, a lot of people do not want to wait for those send-out labs to take a couple of days to get back," Frazier said.

Kansas Hospital Association spokesperson Cindy Samuelson said hospitals can also use the money for several COVID-19 mitigation strategies such as door screeners at entrances.

"You could be talking about public education on multiple mitigation strategies such as washing your hands, keeping your distance, getting vaccinated, wearing a mask," Samuelson said.

Samuelson said the money can't be used for vaccines, but it will allow hospitals to get necessary resources to protect their communities.

"I think that really should help the community have some assurance that even if you are in a small, rural area you are still going to have support coming for testing and strategies to keep you safe," Samuelson said.