New state budget offers help—and hope—to rural hospitals

OLYMPIA — Help is on the way for rural hospitals, especially two sole community hospitals that are the foundation of health care for residents in Clallam County and Grays Harbor County.

“Every family needs access to health care, and that means a hospital within driving distance,” said Rep. Steve Tharinger (D-Dungeness), who helped negotiate language in the operating budget to help rural hospitals.

The new budget includes $1.2 million in state funds and $2.3 million in federal matching funds to boost the rates paid to the Olympic Medical Center and Grays Harbor Community Hospital.

“These much needed funds will help continued operations at these hospitals so families in the area can continue relying on preventive health care services, as well as life-saving procedures and treatments,” said Rep. Brian Blake (D-Aberdeen).

Also included in the new state budget: language to set up and fund a work group to take a hard look at ways to restructure and strengthen the rural health care system in Washington state.

“No one’s happy with the way Grays Harbor Community Hospital has been run, but we can’t turn our backs on the people who depend on it,” said Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim). “We need to keep the doors open and push for improvement going forward.”