Greenville, NC – Members of the US House Ways and Means Committee visited Beaufort and Pitt counties on Monday, October 16, 2023, to engage with the community, tour ECU Health Beaufort Hospital and ECU Health Medical Center, hear from community care leaders and discuss the challenges facing rural health care in America. The committee was visited by deputy. Greg Murphy, President Jason Smith and Representatives Adrian Smith, Kevin Hern and Claudia Tenney.
“Whether it’s my home state of Missouri or eastern North Carolina, rural communities are facing a health care crisis,” said Chairman Smith. “Today, we heard from health care providers and local leaders about the struggles their communities face, from patients traveling long distances to receive emergency care to health care facilities finding and retaining a quality health care workforce with scarce available resources. On our current path, access to health care for much of America will continue to decline, putting the health of millions of rural Americans at risk. The Ways and Means Committee will take what we’ve learned today from patients and doctors on the front lines of this crisis and use it to inform the best way to expand access to health care in rural communities.”
Commission members and county leaders began the day with a visit to Belhaven before touring ECU Health Beaufort Hospital, built in 1957 under the Hill-Burton Act that provided federal funding to support rural hospitals. There, members of the commission joined in a round table discussion with ECU Health leaders and Beaufort County community leaders on the importance of finding collaborative solutions to the complex challenge of rural health care.
The day concluded with a visit by board members to ECU Health Medical Center in Greenville, a premier academic facility that provides a high level of care to the residents of eastern North Carolina. ECU Health Medical Center is the only Level I trauma center east of Raleigh to display ECU Health’s unique system of care which serves as a national model for providing high-quality rural health care.
“Chairman Smith has been kind enough to hold field hearings around the country this year on a variety of issues,” said Rep. Murphy. “I am pleased that he and other members of the Ways and Means Committee are spending time in eastern North Carolina to look at rural health care. We had the opportunity to witness firsthand the efforts of clinicians who strive for quality in medicine while ensuring access to care for all.”
During the tour, legislators walked through emergency servicesintensive care units and labor and childbirth units and participated in discussions with clinicians regarding the challenges facing rural health care, outdated infrastructure and difficulties associated with maintaining basic services. Leaders discussed the importance of preserving services such as birthing units within ECU Health, which are a lifeline for pregnant women, providing essential access to safe and skilled maternity care, often in regions where other health care options are limited. Maintaining units such as these ensures that rural families do not have to bear the significant burden of traveling long distances to access essential services.
“ECU Health has long advocated for solutions at the state and national level to combat the growing rural health care crisis facing America,” said Dr. Michael Waldrum, CEO of ECU Health and dean of East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine. “We are pleased that legislators not only recognize the need to explore solutions to sustain rural health care, but also recognize ECU Health as a leading voice on this important topic. The visit to Beaufort County and Greenville gave us an opportunity to showcase our mission in action, and we are deeply grateful to the board for spending time with us to discuss rural health care.”