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September 22, 2007 -

Barrasso Seeks Workforce Funding For Nurses

Senator, Doctor Addresses Rural Health Efforts at Wyo Nursing Summit Saturday

WASHINGTON – During his keynote speech Saturday at the Wyoming Nursing Summit in Sheridan, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso unveiled his plan to fight for more funding for nursing workforce development programs in 2008.

Barrasso, a long-time Casper orthopedic surgeon, talked about the importance of innovation in rural and underserved areas of Wyoming and the need for nursing programs that provide training and scholarship opportunities.

“I have first-hand knowledge of the challenges families face to obtain medical care in rural America . I also understand the obstacles our hospitals and providers must overcome to deliver quality care to families in an environment with limited resources,” Barrasso said.

Barrasso will use the speech to highlight a letter he sent on Friday (Sept. 21) to Senate appropriators where he seeks support for increased funding for nursing workforce development programs in the Fiscal Year 2008 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Appropriations bill.

In the letter Barrasso writes, “Rural and frontier areas like Wyoming are hit particularly hard as we must compete nationally to recruit nurses and other health care professionals.”

Barrasso’s letter continues, “Unlike urban-based teaching hospitals that receive generous Graduate Medical Education (GME) payments, rural health care providers rely primarily on Title VIII health professions programs to educate and train their workforce.  These dollars are an important investment to solidify our rural health care delivery networks.”

“Congress can and must do more to address our well documented nursing and nurse faculty shortages.  Data suggests this situation will only intensify as baby boomers age and the need for health care services grows.  The January/February 2007 issue of Health Affairs estimates the U.S. shortage of registered nurses will increase to 340,000 by the year 2020,” the letter explains.

In conclusion, Senator Barrasso said, “With sufficient funds, we can recruit and retain enough nurses – and nurse faculty – to meet our nation’s current and future health care needs. There is still much work to be done to ensure the future financial stability of our rural health care delivery system.”

“I commit to working to strengthen our rural hospitals, rural health clinics and community health centers. I commit to working to increase rural America ’s access to primary health care services. But, most importantly, I commit to working to aid in the successful recruitment and retention of health care providers in rural and frontier America .”