Governor Henry McMaster recently signed a new law to help improve rural healthcare. Right now there is a shortage of primary care physicians in the state, especially in the rural areas.
USC nursing educator Stephanie Burgess says South Carolina’s current health rating is an “F.”
“We rank F in chronic disease management and primary care access and we need to do a better job,” said Burgess.
And with 42 of the state’s 46 counties considered rural, thousands of people are underserved when it comes to healthcare because of access.
Until now nurse practitioners could only travel up to 45 miles away from their supervising physician to render care leaving many unattended.
Senator Tom Davis from Beaufort helped pass the bill. He explained the importance of this measure on rural healthcare. “Many physicians are located in urban areas..that’s just a fact that means when you start drawing tha 45 mile radius, other nurses and nurse practitioners can’t get into that area.”
Burgess added that this law could help patients financially also.
“When people can’t access primary care they go to the emergency room, which is very expensive. the average ER visit is $1100 where primary care can be $80-$100, “added Burgess.
The law expands the responsibilities and lift limitations previously on nurse practitioners including how far they can travel to serve a patient.
“Now with our communication such as your Iphone and Skyping we can go all over the state.”
The law also addresses the primary care shortage in the state. Fewer students are pursing medical school, while more are enrolling in nursing programs. In SC, there are 3600 nurse practitioners compared to 3500 primary care providers.
Under this law nurse practitioners will not be able to prescribe medicine for chronic pain management. The state is hoping to couple this law with telehealth programs to bring health care to all residents.
Nurse practitioners will be able to prescribe some medicines, sign handicap placards and student homebound forms, as well as treat acute pain.