New laws designed to provide better health care for rural Illinoisans

Downstate Illinois continues to deal with medical staff shortages, and two new laws on the books are designed to address the problem.

State Rep. Lance Yednock, D-Ottawa, said current medical staff in smaller communities are wearing thin.

“Everybody is overworked, the nurses, the LPNs, the RNs, everybody,” Yednock said. “From top to bottom, overworked and understaffed.”

One measure amends the Loan Repayment Assistance for Physicians Act to address the shortage of health-care providers in rural communities and expands the eligibility for loan repayment to more physicians, advanced practice registered nurses, and physicians’ assistants.

“This is like anything you would do in business, you try to find incentives to keep people in the more rural areas, and we have had a lot of closings of both hospitals downstate and senior retirement homes,” Yednock said.

According to a University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center study, rural populations are typically older and have more health needs than those living in urban areas, despite facing transportation and coverage shortages.

Another measure allows any hospital in a county of fewer than 125,000 residents to apply to the state health department to conduct operations from multiple locations within contiguous counties under one license.

As a result of the bill, St. Margaret’s Health-Spring Valley will have a path to merge with St. Margaret’s Health-Peru. The bill’s sponsors said this will increase health-care coordination across rural counties and improve quality of care for patients in these systems.

“The merger between St. Margaret’s Health and Illinois Valley Community Hospital will provide the residents of the Illinois Valley community with an opportunity for better and more coordinated health care,” Deputy Minority Leader Sue Rezin, R-Morris, said. “This partnership will help create a more structurally and financially secured health-care network within the region that will be better positioned to offer more health-care options and enhanced services.”

This article was originally posted on New laws designed to provide better health care for rural Illinoisans