By Catharin Shepard •
Staff writer •
Money for rural hospitals like the two in Hoke County could be on the way in new state legislation geared toward addressing COVID-19.
The work groups of the Special House Committee on COVID-19 planned to meet this week to discuss the bill meant to help medical facilities in rural areas, according to Hoke County’s State Rep. Garland Pierce. Pierce serves on the health care work group of the committee.
The appropriations and policies in the bill would be geared toward supporting hospitals and health departments in rural areas like Hoke County, Pierce said. The bill isn’t drafted yet but should be made available for the public to review late this week or next week.
Dr. Roxie Wells, president of Cape Fear Valley Hoke Healthcare, presented some information about the needs of rural hospitals to state legislators to help them learn more about what hospitals are dealing with at this time. That information is helping guide development work on the bill, Pierce said.
The draft bill seeks to address more than 40 needs specifically related to COVID-19. Among other items, besides funding for health departments and rural hospitals, the bill could also expand coverage for testing and treatment expenses for people who become ill with the coronavirus.
The representative said he’s staying in touch with Hoke’s elected leaders and is hearing concerns from residents. Mostly there are some concerns about access to food, and people struggling to get access to unemployment insurance. To help with the unemployment insurance, the state has hired a “large number of folks” to better process the
For the most part, Pierce said, citizens are just trying to weather the storm.
“I think most people are just kind of going by the rules of social distancing and staying home unless they just have to go out,” Pierce said.
Asked about whether the stay-at-home executive order and orders closing some businesses were likely to continue past April, Pierce said he suspects some of the orders will be allowed to expire without an extension.
“I think the governor is probably in a position where he is going to start easing some of it,” he said.