Senate legislation would also fund nurse student loan repayment and a hospital residency grant program.
On Wednesday, Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann held a press conference to discuss several bills that he says would help stabilize Mississippi hospitals and the healthcare workforce.
“As you know, we have been concerned about rural hospitals here in Mississippi for a lengthy period of time,” Hosemann said. “During a whole series of discussions both with hospital administrators, patients, different parts of the state, we have come to the conclusion that there needs to be significant, positive changes in order to provide our citizens with the necessary rural health.”
Lt. Gov. Hosemann said that Mississippi has experienced a change in demographics. He explained that this migration from one part of the state to the other has left Mississippi with some facilities that are overbuilt for the people that they are serving, while other facilities do not have sufficient fiscal plans to address the healthcare needs of Mississippians.
“Our hospitals are facing clearly a process in which their reimbursement rate has remained relatively static and their cost of business has skyrocketed,” Hosemann continued. “That’s come from labor and nurses of course as well as the other expenses, the normal expenses, of running any type of entity in our nation today including inflation which has hit them hard.”
Hosemann highlighted proposed Senate legislation that aims to assist hospitals and shore up the healthcare workforce. He hopes to do this by creating grant programs for Mississippi hospitals (S.B. 2372), a hospital nurse loan repayment program (S.B. 2373), a nursing and allied health community college grant program (S.B. 2371), and a hospital residency and fellowship grant program (S.B. 2371).
According to the Lt. Governor’s office, Senate Bill 2372 would create a grant program for Mississippi hospitals, distributing funds based on the number of licensed beds and type of care.
“The program would require hospitals to submit a report detailing their patient census, medical services offered, and a variety of other information to the Department of Health to allow the state and healthcare facilities to better plan for the future of the industry in Mississippi,” the Lt. Governor’s office said.
Senate Bill 2372 would create a hospital nurse loan repayment program for nurses who go to work in a Mississippi hospital. Recipients would receive $6,000 each year for up to three years (maximum total of $18,000) toward any outstanding student loan debt.
“We have a shortage of nurses that’s been chronicled everywhere,” Hosemann said. “Our nurse shortage runs approximately 3,000, we think, it could be more than that. We need our nurses.”
Senate Bill 2371 would create a hospital residency and fellowship grant program as well as a nursing and allied health community college grant program.
According to Hosemann’s office, the Senate introduced this program last year.
Funded initially through ARPA funds, the nursing and allied health community college grant program would allow grant recipients to use funds on equipment, infrastructure, curricula, or other expenses geared toward increasing capacity in nursing or allied health training programs.
“Our community colleges are one of the leaders in providing the nurses that we have talked about,” Hosemann said. “Our community colleges are leading the way in providing nurses throughout the state.”
ARPA funds would be used for the hospital residency and fellowship grant program. Recipients could seek the funding for start-up costs to create or add capacity in existing residency and fellowship programs in medical or surgical specialty areas at Mississippi hospitals.
“The federal government will reimburse a certain number of resident or fellowship seats in each facility, but the initial cost to start a program is prohibitive,” Hosemann’s office said. “Grant recipients may use funds on equipment, infrastructure, curricula, or other expenses geared toward increasing capacity or establishing new residency or fellowship programs.”
Lt. Gov. Hosemann said that when he met with Mississippi’s hospitals, they discussed the fact that the state doesn’t have enough residency programs. He said hospitals want to expand their residency programs.
The Lt. Governor also discussed hospital consolidation and collaboration legislation (S.B. 2323), which is authored by State Senator Joey Fillingane.
The legislation, according to Hosemann’s office, would allow for the modernization of the community hospital statutes by promoting and facilitating collaboration and consolidation of facilities and services where necessary to make them stronger and more financially viable.
Similar legislation has also been filed in the House.
“Mississippians should have access to affordable, quality healthcare, and our hospitals across the state are a critical part of this network,” Lt. Governor Hosemann said. “The proposed funding is short-term, but these bills also are the beginning of a thoughtful, candid conversation about the delivery of healthcare in our state.”