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New Mexico's Rural Hospitals Being Recognized

PHOTO: Rural hospitals provide care for more than 700,000 New Mexico residents annually, and rural hospitals are getting some recognition this week for the work they do in communities around the state. Photo courtesy of the National Institutes of Health.
PHOTO: Rural hospitals provide care for more than 700,000 New Mexico residents annually, and rural hospitals are getting some recognition this week for the work they do in communities around the state. Photo courtesy of the National Institutes of Health.
November 20, 2014

SANTA FE, N.M. - Hospitals in rural New Mexico are being recognized for their role in providing care to hundreds of thousands of residents.

As part of celebrating National Rural Health Day on Thursday, the New Mexico Department of Health is honoring the staff at two dozen rural hospitals. Britt Catron, director of the Office for Primary and Rural Health, says rural hospitals are vital in the communities they serve.

"They're significant to their community," she says. "They provide health care, they provide jobs, and may not always get recognized for what they bring to a community - particularly in a rural area."

Catron says as part of Rural Health Day, several hospitals are being recognized for innovative programs in their communities.

Hiring and retaining doctors and other medical staff has long been a challenge for rural hospitals across the nation. Catron says it's even harder now because the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid expansion have created a greater need for doctors as hospitals treat more patients.

She says programs that encourage young people in rural communities to seek careers in health care may be part of the solution.

"Maybe having exposure to those opportunities will lead them to think, 'Hey, I can be a doctor and I can come back and I can take care of my community,'" she says. "That's one way of trying to address the shortage."

Catron says it's likely nurse practitioners and physicians assistants will also help fill the "doctor void" in rural New Mexico.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NM