Harnett County has received HPSA designation

Harnett County, N.C. (September 24, 2012) – A Federal designation now covering Harnett County allows Harnett Health System to attract and retain more healthcare providers in order to help increase access to quality healthcare for area residents.

The Federal government has approved Harnett County for designation as a health professional shortage area (HPSA). The designation means that the community was able to prove to the state and federal governments that there is an on-going shortage of primary care providers available in the area.

In exchange for a minimum two-year commitment to practicing primary care medicine in HPSA communities, physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and mid-wives who are working in primary care can apply for government loan forgiveness towards their medical student loans.

Other benefits to doctors and the community include building improvement grants to eligible rural or impoverished community clinics. The Federal government also offers an incentive through this program to encourage higher levels of service for Medicare patients’ needs, not just with primary care, but also with specialists.

“This is exciting and positive news for residents in this area,” said Harnett Health System President and Chief Executive Officer Ken Bryan. “This designation will greatly aid in our recruitment and retention of primary care providers. The average debt of a graduating physician is well into six-figures. To be able to offer providers a program in which the government recognizes our community’s healthcare needs and shares in the cost of loan repayment is an excellent step in our quest to continue opening access to quality healthcare for all of Harnett County and surrounding communities.”

To encourage physicians to practice in underserved areas, the HPSA designation also provides for a 10% Medicare incentive to primary care physicians, specialists, optometrists, podiatrists and chiropractors, allowing them to more easily operate and meet the financial needs of a private practice and more readily accept patients with Medicare.

In order to prove the shortage of primary care providers, Harnett Health System leaders worked with HPSA Acumen, Inc., a company that specializes in healthcare research and securing HPSA designations for hospitals and healthcare networks. HPSA Acumen reviewed the backgrounds of all area doctors and surveyed their offices for physician hours worked, typical patient caseloads, and physicians’ use of certified nurse practitioners and physicians assistants in their practices. HPSA Acumen researchers then worked with the government on our behalf requesting government officials recognize Harnett County’s healthcare needs.