KINGSPORT, Tenn., Feb 25, 2011 -- A new era in healthcare opportunities for people in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia was celebrated today as U.S. Rep. Phil Roe and USDA Rural Development State Director Bobby Goode announced a federal telemedicine grant that will reach three counties in Tennessee and two in Virginia. The event took place at the Kingsport Center for Higher Education.
"This new equipment is critically important because it will provide better access to quality health care for folks in East Tennessee," said Roe. "I want to thank USDA Rural Development for their continued support of initiatives that promote economic development."
A USDA Rural Development grant of $497,438 to the Wellmont Foundation will fund equipment needed to create new interactive virtual links between Holston Valley Medical Center (HVMC), Bristol Regional Medical Center, East Tennessee State University and patients and healthcare providers in Sullivan, Hawkins and Hancock Counties in Tennessee, and Wise and Lee Counties in Virginia.
According to Wellmont Foundation Executive Director Todd Norris, the project will make it possible for HVMC and BRMC staff to provide a wide range of services from clinical patient care to continuing education for healthcare professionals at Wellmont’s eight regional hospitals and the Southwest Virginia Cancer Center.
"Families in rural communities should have access to the same quality healthcare they would have living anywhere else," said Goode. "The President has made rural access to broadband a priority and at USDA Rural Development we are helping people and businesses in rural areas use this technology to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world."
Others participating in the event included Sen. Lamar Alexander's Representative Lana Moore, Sen. Bob Corker's Representative Bridgette Baird, Hancock County Mayor Thomas Harrison, Sullivan County Mayor Steve Godsey, Chief Medical Information Officer Dr. Troy Sybert, Visual Communications Specialist Ron Carrier and RD Area Director Joe Woody and staff.
The USDA Rural Development distance learning and telemedicine (DLT) grant program increases the range of educational opportunities available to students and teachers, improves access to quality healthcare and opens up new economic opportunities for families, individuals and businesses in rural America. For more information on Rural Development telecommunications programs contact Terry Kokinda at (615) 451-9498 or Terry.Kokinda@wdc.usda.gov.
Goode praised Kokinda for working with schools, healthcare providers and the private sector to make Tennessee one of the top recipients of Rural Development DLT grants.
USDA Rural Development invests in jobs, infrastructure, homeownership and affordable rental housing in rural communities. With supplemental funding through the Recovery Act, the agency assisted more than 1.5 million Tennessee families and businesses, investing more than $1.3 billion through affordable loans, loan guarantees and grants. More than 86 percent of these investments will be paid back with interest. The rest is at work creating jobs, broadening the local tax base and increasing opportunities in education, training, healthcare and public safety.
For more information on Rural Development programs available in Northeast Tennessee contact the Rural Development Area Office in Greeneville at 423-638-4771 ext. 4, toll free at 800-342-3149 ext. 1490, or online at www.rurdev.usda.gov/tn.
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or call (800) 795-3272 TDD (615) 783-1397