Health care practitioners short in supply in rural communities

Rural health leaders from Minnesota told White House officials Tuesday that their communities not only face shortages of nurses and doctors, but of many other health care workers as well.

Mark Schoenbaum, who directs Minnesota's office of rural health and primary care, says rural communities also need rural areas need teams of health care workers that include nurse practitioners; physician assistants; dental therapists and community paramedics. Right now, the current system relies on too few physicians and nurses who are overtaxed and in short supply, he said.

"The only way we're going to get to the level of quality and access we're all looking for as patients, is to put together teams that have a breadth of health care professionals, all with strong and complementary skills," Schoenbaum said.

Also today, the White House announced that seven Minnesota community health centers will share in more than $15 million in new grants provided under the federal health care overhaul. The money will help renovate and expand community health centers in Mankato, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Cook and Duluth.

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