The Senate Finance Committee held a briefing on rural health and economic development issues on February 23. A panel of rural health officials spoke before the Committee on the various impacts and challenges that budget reductions have had on the quality of health care services offered to Maryland residents. Earl Stoner, Health Officer for Washington County, stressed that while health departments throughout the state are struggling with decreased funding levels, rural communities have been particularly hard hit. Stoner provided the example that current funding levels for Washington County are comparable to fiscal years 1997 and 1998, which has led to significant workforce and service reductions. Additionally, residents of rural communities do not have as many resources as larger counties; therefore local health departments are the primary resource of services for those that are uninsured. Stoner stated:
“We’ve been ravaged at the local level…Our fluff is gone and our ability to be flexible is gone. Now we are truly into reducing services – critical services and reducing critical programs and projects. This is the level where Mom and Pop come through the door and are uninsured and they need to be signed up for health insurance for their children and the question is will we be able to sign them up in a timely matter.”
To listen to the briefing click here.