U.S. Senator John Boozman spoke to a limited number of people outside by the fountain of North Arkansas Regional Medical Center on Tuesday, Aug. 25, to show his support and understanding of the plight of community hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is an opportunity for NARMC to thank Mr. Boozman for all he has done for this hospital. He’s always been willing to listen to our needs and concerns and we appreciate that,” NARMC president/CEO Vince Leist said.
Boozman said, “Thank you for the great work you are doing on the front lines of this pandemic.”
He went on to share why he has a fondness for this area. “My uncle lived here when I was a boy, and I got to visit often from Fort Smith and roamed the area with my two cousins. But I’m also proud of our state and all that Arkansas represents.”
“The entire Arkansas delegation in Washington tries to follow the example set by the late John Paul Hammerschmidt. We’re very proud of that effort,” he said.
“We’ve been working hard getting the resources you need,” Boozman said. “We are currently trying to figure out another package. We know you need more PPE and reagents for testing.”
Boozman said Congress is well aware of the dependency upon reagents and PPE products coming from China and India. “We will need to find ways in the future to not be as dependent upon other countries for these items.
“I understand how difficult it is for you. Community hospitals are so important. You are on the top of our list for protecting community health facilities. A lot of people look to Canada, thinking they have a great system. But most people live 90 minutes away from a hospital. We want to protect community hospitals so they can continue to serve and protect the area.”
Boozman bragged on the schools of the area, the quality of life and great health care. “People want to retire here. They want to return here and start businesses. This is a great community.”
The senator asked Leist about the testing result time. “We are using Quest Diagnostics and getting results in 48 to 72 hours.
“The economic impact this pandemic has had on our nation is uncharted waters for us. We went from a lot of companies having the best year to the worst. Several went from a 50-year high to a 75-year low. But this is a great country. We will get through this, because we have great people,” he said.
Leist asked him about 340B. The drug companies do not support the price discount that federal law provides to hospitals and the drug companies have made it clear they will drop the discounts soon.
Boozman said they would have to look at this carefully because you don’t want to solve one problem and create a bigger one.
One of the doctors asked when the next round of funding would be approved. “We are hoping everyone can agree on another package this fall to help with funding to schools and hospitals and the limited liability discussion for businesses.”
“We know that PPP successfully helped a lot of businesses weather this storm. But we want to make sure some didn’t fall through the cracks. One fourth of restaurant workers are still unemployed now. During this time Congress has been working well together. But now the election and politics have taken over. So hopefully after the election we can ban together again to help our communities. Please let me know if there’s anything we can do for you.”
As Boozman replaced his mask, he thanked the hospital for their diligence in providing six feet of social distancing. “Wearing masks is the key to get us back to normal,” Boozman said.
Leist thanked Boozman for the compliments and said their staff had been asked to sign an agreement stating their behavior in the hospital and the community with social distancing and masks would be the same in both places. “We wear masks all day long and our staff wears them in the community, too,” Leist said. “This is the best staff I have ever worked with.”