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Special to The Flash
HAMILTON – Texas State Representative J.D. Sheffield was honored Thursday, Nov. 19, by the Texas Organization of Rural & Community Hospitals (TORCH) with its prestigious TORCHbearer Award. The rural hospital group, which represents the 175 rural hospitals across Texas, honors members of the Texas Legislature after each session that have shown strong support and fought for rural hospitals. Sheffield, one of the few physicians in the Texas Legislature, and the only rural physician, represents the 59th State House district which is comprised of his hometown of Gatesville and the counties of Comanche, Coryell, Erath, Hamilton, McCulloch, Mills, San Saba, and Somervell. He was first elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 2013 having now served two terms. He is on a number of committees including Appropriations, Public Health, and Rules and Resolutions.
Don McBeath, Director of TORCH Government Relations, said “this award is one we take very seriously in honoring those members of the Legislature that have gone above and beyond in fighting for rural hospitals. We don’t hand many of these out. Our rural hospitals are struggling, yet they are critical to the safety net of health care across Texas. As a practicing rural physician, Representative Sheffield is one who realizes how important these hospitals are and that they are a big part of the economic viability of small communities across this state.”
TORCH CEO David Pearson added “as the Texas Legislature deals with so many diverse issues, it is sometimes hard to get them to focus on rural hospitals. It is especially challenging with the vast majority of the members being from urban areas. Representative Sheffield advocates that the rural hospitals are not only important to his hometown and his district, but to the entire state. He understands that health care and emergency services in rural areas impact urban dwellers too. The fact is anyone in Texas may need rural care as they travel across the state if they suddenly get sick or have an accident. Plus, the food, fuel, and fiber they use are from rural Texas and health care access in rural Texas is necessary to keep that food, fuel, and fiber flowing.”
Sheffield’s efforts during the session on behalf of rural hospitals included sponsoring a bill to expand rural representation on the Texas Perinatal Advisory Council that is developing new rules for baby deliveries in hospitals and he authored a provision in the state budget requiring Medicaid payments to rural hospitals be sufficient enough to cover each the cost of providing the service, rather than pass part of the cost on to local taxpayers and other patients.
The rural hospital award was presented to Sheffield today as part of a community health fair at Hamilton General Hospital.