Today is National Rural Health Day, and the need for awareness and support for our rural communities is at an all-time high. Rural hospitals anchor their communities while delivering essential access to health care services. In Washington, where 75 percent of the state is rural, local rural hospitals are key care providers. And during COVID-19, rural health care is being hit especially hard.
Like the entire health care industry, rural health care providers have stepped-up to care for their patients during the pandemic, including expanding service options, offering telehealth and providing vital public health services. The National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health, which includes all 50 State Offices of Rural Health, created National Rural Health Day ten years ago to show appreciation for all the work rural providers and hospitals put into taking care of us. This year, we need to return the favor.
Health care providers have been responding to the pandemic for months now. For rural areas, where staffing and retention issues are already heightened, this exhaustion is particularly felt. With Thanksgiving around the corner, and the rest of the winter holidays soon-to-follow, the most helpful step you can take is to stay home this year. I myself am looking forward to eating too much pie with just my husband and son. Celebrating virtually, or just with your immediate household, will help ensure that the health care system does not become completely overwhelmed.
You can also show your support for rural hospitals by celebrating National Rural Health Day online with the Power of Rural toolkit. I’m proud to work with the people of rural Washington, and I look forward to continuing to work with the WSHA team to address the challenges facing rural communities through the pandemic and beyond.