Rural Health Advisory Committee Meeting Minutes

Rural Health Advisory Committee Meeting Minutes Summary

Tuesday, January 23, 2007 9:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m.
Minnesota Department of Health Orville Freeman Building 625 Robert Street, B-108 Conference Room, St. Paul, MN

Members Participating via Video Conference: Darrell Carter (Granite Falls), Ray Christensen (Duluth), Tom Crowley (Wabasha via telephone), Maddy Forsberg (Slayton), Diane Muckenhirn (Hutchinson), LaVonne Schlieman (Morris) and Nancy Stratman, Chair (Willmar).

Members Absent: Steve Hansberry, Representative Brad Finstad, Paul Iverson, Michael Mulder, Representative Mary Ellen Otremba, Senator Jim Vickerman, Senator Betsy Wergin and Rhonda Wiering.

MDH Staff Present: Peggy Durham-Lien, MDH Fergus Falls; Emily Litt and Sarah Roach, Office of Emergency Preparedness; Linda Norlander, Tamie Rogers, Mark Schoenbaum, Angie Sechler, Kristen Tharaldson, Office of Rural Health and Primary Care; Assistant Commissioner Carol Woolverton.

Audience:Emily Finstuen, Minnesota Physicians Association; Ann Gibson, Minnesota Hospital Association; Debby Garey and Larry Woods, Minnesota Department of Human Services.


Nancy Stratman, chair, welcomed participants to the first all-video-conference Rural Health Advisory Committee meeting. Eight sites participated. Reviewed video-conferencing “tips”and introduced Rural Health Advisory Committee members, presenter and participants in the audience.

Member Updates:

Preparing for the Aging Population
Discussion included concern that not enough emphasis is being placed on the aging baby boomers and their potential health care needs. Darrell Carter compared the coming crisis to the 1950s when the school systems were not prepared for the baby boomers. Ray Christensen observed that this is a time to re-examine the traditional health care system that might not serve the aging population well. Other issues noted included a shrinking health care workforce and current lack of resources such as mental health. Maddy Forsberg reported that one of her concerns is focusing on using the aging population as an asset in communities.

Diane Muckenhirn discussed the importance of mentoring and precepting as a way to train and attract health care professionals to rural areas. Ray Christensen noted the continued concern over lack of primary care physicians. Tom Crowley related the need for family practice physicians in his community and the challenge in recruiting.

Members expressed continued interest in the development of telehealth to improve access to care in rural areas. A policy forum will be held in Redwood Falls on February 1 to discuss telehealth. Karen Welle from the Office of Rural Health and Primary Care will moderate a panel discussion.

Chronic Care and Community Health
Nancy Stratman reported that her facility is collaborating with clinics and the hospital to improve outcomes in patients with congestive heart failure through a “Pay for Performance” grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services. Tom Crowley described work being done through the Wabasha hospital to address metabolic syndrome. He is also involved in a community project to educate people on reading and understanding food labels.


Carol Woolverton, Assistant Commissioner of Health
Governor’s budget has been released and is available by agency at Budget areas of greatest interest to RHAC members include:

  • $7.5  million in FY 2008 and $11.0 million in FY 2009 and 2010 for eHealth, funding appropriated from the Health Care Access Fund. 
  • An appropriation from the Health Care Access Fund of $8 million each fiscal year to offset losses to the Medical Education and Research Costs Fund (MERC). 
  • A Health Care Access Fund appropriation of $760,000 in FY 2008 and $930,000 in FY 2009 to increase and consolidate funding for the loan forgiveness program to maintain current service levels and simplify its administration.
  • Appropriation of $12.7 million from the General Fund for Pandemic Preparedness to be used for planning, training and exercising for any hazard, not just flu.

Departmental changes include an addition of three assistant commissioners in the Executive Office. Margaret Diebel has been hired as the new director for the Community and Family Health. She will begin at the end of February.

Mark Schoenbaum, Director

  • Planning for the 2007 Rural Health Conference is underway and will be in Duluth, June 18 and 19, 2007. Currently searching for a keynote speaker for the conference and welcome any suggestions.
  • There were 12 grants made involving the expansion of eHealth targeting rural and underserved areas of Minnesota. A complete roster of recipients of the grant rewards is online at
  • Currently, ORHPC is convening those interested in FCC funding of telecommunication and health to create a single coordinated effort from Minnesota. Karen Welle is the contact for any information regarding this effort.
  • Watch for the Center for Rural Policy and Development’s report about rural health in Minnesota.
  • A fourth Area Health Education Consortium (AHEC) was announced and is to be located in Crookston, Minnesota. 

Emergency Preparedness in Rural Minnesota:  Pandemic Flu
Emily Litt, Pandemic Flu Coordinator, MDH

Reviewed local, regional and state resources and structure for responding to a pandemic influenza outbreak.  Information is available on the Minnesota Department of Health Web site at:
Discussion with RHAC members included a focus on how these preparation efforts can be maintained over time. Sustainability will come through the “all-hazards” approach of building an infrastructure that can respond to a number of public health emergencies—not simply one that addresses a pandemic flu outbreak.

All RHAC members agreed that the teleconference saved time from driving to St. Paul and appreciated the focused format of the meeting. Some members expressed that the networking capability with other members, groups and constituencies was missing.  However, teleconferencing did provide opportunities for expansion of public attendance at local sites. For future teleconference meetings, handouts need to be sent out in advance. 

Suggestions for Next Meeting:  1) Address health care policy, specifically reimbursement 2) Create a subcommittee on rural health issues that pertain to current state and national health reform efforts 3) Present on Pay-for-Performance (P4P) and its implications for rural health care.

The next meeting of RHAC will be Tuesday, March 20, 2007.


Updated Tuesday, January 16, 2018 at 12:30PM