The federal government is pumping a good chunk of change into rural hospitals in North Carolina to battle COVID-19.

On Friday, July 30, state health officials announced that North Carolina was getting more than $4.9 million in federal funds for small rural hospitals across the state.  The money will be used for COVID-19 testing and response.

The move by the federal government is meant to offer increased COVID-19 mitigation in rural communities to ensure an equitable distribution of resources – especially testing – across the state. 

Nineteen hospitals will get up to $258,000 and change to increase COVID-19 testing, expand access to testing in rural communities and expand the range of COVID-19 responses. All of the hospitals on the list have less than 50 beds or are considered “critical access” hospitals – small medical facilities that give limited outpatient and inpatient hospital services to people in rural areas.

 In a press release from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) Director of the Office of Rural Health Maggie Sauer stated this money is much needed and much appreciated

“This funding is key in providing an equitable response to COVID-19 in our rural communities,” Sauer stated. Rural hospitals are well-positioned as trusted health care providers in their communities to encourage COVID-19 vaccination and testing, especially in places where many people feel uncertain about getting vaccinated.”

According to the July 30 press release: “Long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put some rural residents at increased risk of getting COVID-19 or having a severe illness.  This includes the 10 million rural residents who identify as Black, Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian American/Pacific Islander or mixed race. One in five rural residents belongs to one or more of these groups.”

The money came from the Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program through the Health Resources and Services Administration of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

The fortunate North Carolina hospitals on the receiving end of these funds are Alleghany Health, Ashe Memorial Hospital Inc., Charles A. Cannon Jr. Memorial Hospital, DLP Person Memorial Hospital, Granville Health System, Martin General Hospital, Pender Memorial Hospital, St. Luke’s Hospital, Outer Banks Hospital, Vidant Bertie Hospital, Vidant Chowan Hospital, Washington Regional Medical Center, LifeBrite Community Hospital of Stokes, Swain Community Hospital, Cape Fear Hoke, Cape Fear Bladen, FirstHealth Montgomery, J. Arthur Dosher Memorial Hospital and Wilkes Medical Center.