UArizona Health Sciences Awarded $1.35 Million in COVID-19 Relief Funds for Rural Hospitals in Arizona

The Health Resources and Services Administration has awarded $1.35 million to the University of Arizona Center for Rural Health to support 16 hospitals in rural Arizona to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

TUCSON, Ariz. – Rural hospitals have struggled with a unique set of challenges long before the coronavirus pandemic, which has placed even more burdens on these much-stressed health care providers.

Wickenburg Community Hospital, Wickenburg, AZ (Photo: UArizona Center for Rural Health)To assist Arizona’s rural hospitals, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) has awarded the University of Arizona Health Sciences $1.35 million to support the Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program (SHIP) at the Center for Rural Health in the UArizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.

The source of the funding is the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which allocated $150 million for SHIP-eligible hospitals in the United States. In Arizona, 16 rural hospitals are eligible to receive as much as $71,500 over the next 18 months to prevent, prepare for and respond to COVID-19.

“This funding is a much-needed source of good news for rural hospitals,” said Leila Barraza, JD, MPH, assistant professor and public health lawyer at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. “These rural facilities continue to serve Arizonans traveling long distances for primary, preventive, emergency and inpatient care.” Barraza is principal investigator of the HRSA initiative.

The SHIP program allows the Center for Rural Health to assist with the following:

  • Ensure patient and hospital personnel safety to minimize COVID-19 exposure.
  • Address emergent COVID-19 issues, including testing, lab, patient and community education.
  • Restore, sustain and strengthen hospital capacity and staffing levels by reinstating and reassigning providers, hiring new providers or contractors and/or increasing staff time to respond to coronavirus and continue hospital operations.
  • Complete minor alteration and renovation to maximize isolation precautions and facilitate telehealth.
  • Purchase equipment, including health information technology and telehealth equipment, vehicles, triage tents and mobile medical units.
  • Purchase supplies, including COVID-19 therapeutics and vaccines, when available.

“As we adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic, rural hospitals in Arizona face greater challenges with fewer resources,” said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins, MD. “The funding from HRSA will give rural hospitals critical support to build capacity to mitigate this pandemic in the communities they serve. The CARES Act provides much-needed support to rural hospitals, and I am proud the University of Arizona can assist those in need.”

“The HRSA award to support our University of Arizona Center for Rural Health’s Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program illustrates how academic medicine-community partnerships align with our land-grant university mission and underscores our commitment to the health providers and facilities so critical to Arizonans living in rural areas,” said Michael D. Dake, MD, senior vice president of UArizona Health Sciences.

“Combined with our other HRSA and state-supported initiatives, like the State Office of Rural Health and the Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program, we are able to quickly leverage this new HRSA funding to address unmet rural health needs during the COVID-19 pandemic in 16 rural Arizona hospitals,” added Daniel Derksen, MD, health policy expert, director of the Center for Rural Health and associate vice president at UArizona Health Sciences.

For information about current activities in the five health sciences colleges, visit the UArizona Health Sciences COVID-19 Resources webpage.

For the latest on the University of Arizona response to the novel coronavirus, visit the university's COVID-19 webpage.

About the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health
Established in 2000, the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona Health Sciences is the first nationally accredited college of public health in the Southwest. Today the college remains the only accredited college of public health in the state of Arizona, with campuses in Tucson and Phoenix. The college enrolls more than 1,100 students per year across degree programs at the bachelor's degree, master's degree and doctoral levels. Through research, education and community engagement, the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health continues to find solutions to public health problems in Arizona, the Southwest and globally. For more information: publichealth.arizona.edu (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter).

About the University of Arizona Health Sciences
The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. UArizona Health Sciences includes the Colleges of Medicine (Tucson and Phoenix), Nursing, Pharmacy, and the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona, the greater Southwest and around the world to provide next-generation education, research and outreach. A major economic engine, Health Sciences employs nearly 5,000 people, has approximately 4,000 students and 900 faculty members, and garners $200 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information: uahs.arizona.edu (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | LinkedIn | Instagram).