DES MOINES, Iowa — On March 28, Gov. Kim Reynolds put her signature on a bill aimed at helping rural hospitals keep their doors open.
Senate File 75, also known as the Rural Emergency Licensure Bill, is described as a lifeline for rural hospitals by the Iowa Hospital Association (IHA)
According to IHA, in the last decade more than 140 hospitals in the U.S. closed, including one here in Iowa. Now, with this bill becoming law, rural hospitals have more options to maintain service.
IHA released a statement thanking Reynolds and other leaders of the bill.
President and CEO of IHA Chris Mitchell wrote in part:
"This bill provides a potential lifeline to our rural hospitals across the state, gives struggling hospitals another option to avoid closure and ensures that local access to care is maintained."
Local 5 spoke to Iowa Democratic Rep. Heather Matson, a member on this bill's subcommittee who shared how there are a lot of rural communities across the state are struggling to access emergency health care. She said this leads them to shut down or struggle to stay open.
"By creating rural emergency hospitals, it's allowing an opportunity for that health care to exist, even if it is just to be able to provide 24 hours of emergency care, just so that there is something close to home," Matson said.
Iowa House Rep. Megan Srinivas, who is also a doctor, spoke about how these new options listed in the bill will help keep residents of rural communities alive.
"We are extending our ability to give access to care to hundreds and thousands of Iowans throughout the state. And that's the most important part: this bill will save lives," Srinivas said.
This bill gained support from the majority of members on both sides of the aisle, passing 97-1 in the House and the 47-0 in Senate before receiving Reynold's signature.
Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley released a statement on the passing of this bill, saying:
"REH (rural emergency hospital) is the most significant reform to protect access to essential rural health care services in decades. I'm glad rural hospitals and communities in iowa have one more option to sustain their operations and maintain health care access in the community."
Matson said it's important to note this bill becoming law doesn't necessarily mean hospitals will immediately make changes, it just means they have the option to open rural emergency hospitals in communities that need it.
Matson said this change is not going to solve all existing rural healthcare problems, but it's a step in the right direction.