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Hospital Castañer gets $2M Health and Human Services grant

The Hospital Castañer recently received a $2 million grant through the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to increase health care access and quality for underserved populations through virtual services such as telehealth, remote patient monitoring, digital patient tools, and health information technology platforms.

In total, the program awarded nearly $55 million to 29 HRSA-funded health centers, including the Castañer hospital. This funding builds on more than $7.3 billion in American Rescue Plan funding invested in community health centers over the past year to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

“We’re honored that Hospital Castañer has been the only primary health center in Puerto Rico, and one of 29 in the United States, to receive this important grant,” said Robin Russell, executive director of the healthcare facility.

“The project presented is very complete and these funds will help us meet needs that we have identified that can be improved by optimizing the use of virtual care and telehealth in our service areas,” Russell said.

As a result, the hospital will be able to improve clinical quality metrics and health service access metrics in the population it serves at its centers in Jayuya, Adjuntas, and Castañer, with an extended reach to Lares, Yauco, Maricao, and Las Marías, Russell added.

“In addition, through this project we will be creating 17 new direct jobs during this coming year,” said Russell.

The hospital’s telemedicine service already allows it to tend to its patients from the safety of their home.

Now, through the initiative proposed for this grant, the healthcare facility seeks to: increase access to patient-centered care and utilization of health center services; reduce morbidity and mortality from chronic and infectious diseases; improve patient engagement; identify and address social determinants of health; gain greater virtual preparedness to address public health and community emergencies and interruptions in care; increase the sustainability of virtual care models and Community Health Impactivists; reduce health disparities in access to virtual care; and improve the quality of life for patients and communities.

“Virtual care has been a game-changer for patients, especially during the pandemic,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “This funding will help health centers leverage the latest technology and innovations to expand access to quality primary care for underserved communities. Today’s announcement reflects the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to advancing health equity and putting essential health care within reach for all Americans.”

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, health centers have quickly expanded their use of virtual care to maintain access to essential primary care services. They reported significant growth in the number of virtual visits from 478,333 in 2019 to 28,550,608 in 2020, a 6,000% increase.

In total, the number of health centers offering virtual visits grew from 592 in 2019 to 1,362 in 2022, an increase of 130%.

These new awards will enable health centers to sustain an expanded level of virtual care and identify and implement new digital strategies, the federal agency stated.

“Today’s awards will help ensure that new ways to deliver primary care are reaching the communities that need it most,” said HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson. “Our funding will help health centers continue to expand their virtual work while maintaining their vital in-person services in communities across the country.”

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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