COMMENTARY

Coronavirus pandemic makes helping rural hospitals crucial

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As the coronavirus continues to spread around our state and country, it has never been more important to fight to protect our healthcare workforce and infrastructure. Sadly, earlier this year it was announced that Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital (OLBH) in Greenup County would be closing its doors, affecting the jobs of as many as 1,000 workers in northeastern Kentucky, and costing that area more than 200 hospital beds at a time they may be needed the most.


As state representative, protecting the health, safety and livelihood of our families and communities is my top priority. OLBH is a critical piece of my region’s healthcare system and economy in eastern Kentucky, and I am leading the fight to do all we can to protect this important resource.


I introduced legislation to provide loans to struggling rural hospitals in our state. If passed, this legislation – House Bill 387 – would create a Rural Hospital Operation and Facilities Revolving Loan Fund to support 64 healthcare facilities in small towns and rural communities across Kentucky. Loans through this bill would help hospitals like OLBH maintain or upgrade facilities, keep or grow staffing, and provide health services that are not currently available at these facilities.


I served as a volunteer hospital board member at OLBH for nine years under the previous ownership, and I’ve seen firsthand the impact this facility makes on a region. This legislation to support our small-town and rural hospitals, like OLBH, has never been more important than right now. 


The coronavirus pandemic is a challenge unlike any we have ever seen, and our doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers are the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus. They need all the resources possible to help Kentuckians get through this outbreak, and that includes hospitals and facilities in rural communities and small towns like OLBH.


I will continue to do all I can to see that this legislation is passed and signed into law, and I urge my colleagues in the Kentucky Senate to pass this bill.


Dr. Danny Bentley is a pharmacist from Russell in Greenup County. He is the state representative for House District 98, which includes part of Boyd County and Greenup County.

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