In January, Governor McDonnell of Virginia established the Rural Jobs Council to ensure that there is a continued focus on rural areas in the state in terms of the business environment and the quality of life. The Council’s Infrastructure Subcommittee held a meeting to discuss and develop ideas related to issues impacting rural communities.
The Rural Jobs Council submitted a report on April 4, 2013 to the Governor including suggestions on broadband, healthcare, plus other issues related to transportation, regionalism, site identification, education, water/wastewater, and ready prepared sites. The first topic on the agenda was to discuss the expansion of broadband. The Subcommittee suggested that the state should fund community-led broadband deployment initiatives in unserved areas, identify feasible last mile technologies capable of delivering telecommunications to these communities, and provide grant writing assistance to communities and entities applying for federal broadband grant and loan programs.
The Subcommittee looked at ways to improve access to quality healthcare systems and tools in rural communities. One suggestion was that the state should foster collaboration across and within various levels of government, communities, non-profit organizations, and the private sector. Specifically, the Division of Primary Care and Rural Health and the Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s Health Care Committee should work together to support the Virginia Center for Health Innovations as a technology resource.
The Subcommittee stressed the importance for supporting telehealth and telemedicine systems with the physical technology infrastructure needed that at this time is not well developed in rural Virginia, support pilot projects that would focus on the integration of quality systems of care, and examine, identify, and share models of care and best practices from other rural areas in the nation.
An important goal should be to increase funding to bring more practitioners to rural and medically underserved areas. The thinking is to develop a more aggressive outreach to the Virginia Community College system, explore healthcare workforce training models and alternatives for rural areas, develop dual certificate programs, provide for full time healthcare career coaches, and increase communication between various health professions training programs.