Rural hospitals now qualify for PPP; Haskell Memorial using federal funds to pay workers, stock up on PPE

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) — Thanks to the “Rural Health Care Relief Act” introduced by three U.S. Congressmen on April 22, rural hospitals now qualify for the paycheck protection program.

CEO of Haskell memorial hospital, Chris Strickland, says the hospital continues to serve its community.

“I haven’t had to furlough anybody,” said Strickland. “I’ve kept everyone on payroll and so, that means that families continue to receive money and that the local economy continues to be stimulated from our–we’re one of the largest employers in the area.”

The Trump administration approved the addendum on April 24 to the PPP. Representative Jodey Arrington was one of the representatives advocating for these health care hubs. In a press release Arrington wrote:

“They are on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19, they are one of the largest employers in rural communities, and they were the most vulnerable to closing as a result of lost revenue…”

This funding will not only sustain current operations; Strickland says he and his team are stockpiling PPE for the future, as experts are predicting a spike of COVID-19 as late as December 2020 into January of 2021.

“This thing could be back with a vengeance, and then you combine that with the flu, we could have some real issues,” said Strickland.

Telemedicine has also been a useful placeholder for the hospital’s clinic, as many patients are currently more hesitant to enter a doctor’s office. Strickland says Medicare has loosened its guidelines to allow rural health care providers access to their patients through telemedicine amid the pandemic.

“I’m thinking telemedicine is going to be sticking around after this,” said Strickland. “I’m hoping so at least.”

Strickland notes with federal and state funding, Haskell Memorial Hospital has been able to keep its feet on the ground, but the future of many rural hospitals still hangs in the balance.

“We were kind of scared that this COVID-19 was going to be the death blow to all of rural hospitals, and the PPP program is probably going to save a lot of them,” said Strickland.

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