SPOKANE – Two of the region’s largest gatherings of rural health care professionals will take place March 23 – 25 in Spokane, where participants will discuss how to weather economic challenges.
 
“There is a threatening storm gathering over rural health care, the advance winds of which we can already feel,” said John Hanson, 2010 conference chair and rural health specialist with the Washington State Department of Health. “We hope rural health providers, administrators and commissioners will join us as forward-thinking people from our region and the nation converge to find the best ways to make it through the storm.”
 
The 8th NW Regional Critical Access Hospital Conference, beginning on March 23, is designed for Critical Access Hospital (CAH) administrators, staff, clinicians and board members to learn, share, plan and maximize the opportunities offered through the CAH designation across nine breakout sessions.
 
“Once again, this year’s program has a lot to offer,” said Mike Lee, chair NW Regional CAH Conference. “From federal and CMS updates to patient care, HIT, and finance, there’s valuable information for everyone.” Lee is with the Community Health Systems Office/Rural Health at the Washington State Department of Health.
 
Keynote topics and speakers include:
 – “Office of Rural Health Policy Federal Update” by Kristin Martinsen, U.S. Department of Health and Human  Services, Health Resources and Services Administration
 – “Public Policy Demands for Improved Health Care Quality and Their Effect on Rural Health Care” by David   Schulke, American Health Quality Association
 – “Strategies for CAH’s in Transformational Times” by Charles Wells, Jr., Healthcare    Financial Advisors   Inc.
 
The 23rd NW Regional Rural Health Conference, March 24 – 25, will focus on weathering economic challenges and changes over more than 20 breakout sessions. The event strives to stay abreast of the current policy and regulation developments that impact healthcare delivery at the federal, regional, state and local levels.
 
The conference will open with a Northwest Health Leaders Panel consisting of prominent health leaders from Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. The panel moderator is Mary Selecky, secretary of the Washington State Department of Health.
 
Wednesday’s Washington Rural Health Association Awards Luncheon will feature Tom Locke, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson Counties in Northwest Washington State. Dr. Locke will share his vision of health care reform that focuses on an integration of public health and medical care systems with the goal of improved community health.
 
Thursday morning’s keynote features Tim Skinner, executive director of 3RNet, the National Rural Recruitment & Retention Network, will present on recruitment, retention, and the importance of partnering with the community and workforce development.
 
Detailed information and registration for both conferences is available at www.ahec.spokane.wsu.edu. Registration is required to attend the conferences and preferred by March 10, 2010. NW CAH Conference registration is $60 and Rural Health Conference fees range from $125-$245.
 
For more information, go to the web address listed above or contact the Area Health Education Center of Eastern Washington, WSU Extension at 509-358-7640, 800-279-0705 or ahec@wsu.edu.