medical health care

 Texas is slated to receive $1.5 million to strengthen its rural health care workforce, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday.

AUSTIN — Texas is slated to receive $1.5 million to strengthen its rural health care workforce, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday.

HHS awarded nearly $46 million to 31 community-based organizations to expand public health clinical and operational capacity through workforce development. This funding includes support for critical health workforce needs in rural areas across different fields.

In Texas, the $1.5 million will be directed toward training respiratory therapists, administered through the University Medical Center in Lubbock.

“The goal is for this is to get respiratory therapists trained, and … to work in rural community hospitals,” said Anthony Trantham, UMC director of respiratory care.

The funding will allow for 60 therapists over three years to be trained for free in the two-year program. Ideally, these candidates are already embedded in small communities and intend to stay, Trantham said.

While most Texas communities have emerged from the peak of COVID, Trantham said there is still a high need for trained respiratory therapists as the impacts of COVID linger. He added that there was already a need for this skilled work in rural communities prior to the pandemic.

Respiratory therapists also help with conditions such as asthma, lung disease and underdeveloped lungs in premature infants.

“These little communities were hit hard with COVID. They didn't have qualified trained staff in their hospitals to take care of these people, and since then, all these hospitals still have not recovered. So this program allows for therapists to be trained, where they live,” Trantham said

Trantham added that this program will be beneficial on several fronts.

First, it provides a career opportunity for those who live in a small community, particularly those who have recently exited high school and are searching for a career.

The program also benefits hospital systems in larger cities as rural hospitals would no longer have to send patients away for treatment they can now provide. This is not only convenient for local family members but also improves capacity in major cities, Trantham said.

“(The program will be) for people that typically may not have an opportunity to leave home, go to school, maybe leave their families etc.,” Trantham said. “This is going to allow those folks an opportunity to get into healthcare, to have a better career path for them and their families, and then overall, the impact it will have on the lives in their home community.”

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