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Under a new categorization, some rural Arkansas counties receive federal funding to hire medical personnel



Monroe County, Arkansas – The Health Resources and Services Administration has officially identified three counties in Arkansas as primary care Health Professional Shortage Areas. According to the Arkansas Department of Health, this classification will enable healthcare institutions to hire medical specialists in outlying areas.

By offering student loan payback, the government introduced this new category that enables qualified healthcare organizations to use federal funds to entice medical professionals—such as doctors, nurses, dentists, and behavioral healthcare specialists—to rural areas in need.

The designation can be based on a number of factors, including location, facilities, population, and medically underserved areas and people, according to ADH authorities.

According to Monroe pharmacist Marco Middleton, working in a rural area is like being on call constantly. He expressed the expectation that a new state status would attract greater assistance.

“It’s very challenging being in a rural community. Not only do we have the health care disparities, we also have a shortage of primary providers,” Middleton said.

In Monroe County, Middleton also owns Brinkley Family Pharmacy and Middleton Family Pharmacy. Despite only having slightly more than 6,000 residents, he claimed that the hamlet serves 66% of the county.

He claimed that they launched their pharmacy in Brinkley three years ago and that due to the scarcity of medical services in the outlying area, they continuously provide assistance to individuals.

“Whenever patients can’t get to the clinic or anything or if they’re uninsured were one of the first stops they make,” Middleton said.

But, according to Middleton, many patients are compelled to travel, sometimes for up to three hours, outside of the county because they have additional medical requirements that the local facilities cannot meet.

He claimed that some of the physicians in the community do have to go great distances to help with their needs.

“I can think of a handful of pharmacists that live within this county, most of the pharmacists that work with us are coming from other areas they are having an hour drive sometimes two,” said Middleton.

Middleton claimed that the region suffers from a scarcity of medical specialists, but because they are located in a rural section of Arkansas, it might be challenging to get staff.

“You’re going one hour or a two-hour drive so it is really difficult to try to recruit,” Middleton said.

But Middleton thinks that with the assistance of federal funds—since the county was recently recognized as an HPSA—they can make the hirings they require.

“It would be an overwhelming benefit if we were able to get more medical professionals that live right here,” Middleton said.

Army veteran Robert Wells is 73 years old. He claimed that while Brinkley Family Pharmacy is where he frequently purchases his medications, he must travel an additional hour for other medical treatments. So that he wouldn’t have to travel as frequently, he remarked it would be nice to have more care in town.

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