Theme of Northwest’s Largest Conferences on Rural Health March 29-31 Is “Retrofitting for Reform”

SPOKANE, Wash. – The Northwest’s largest conference on rural health takes place March 29 through 31, drawing health professionals from Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Idaho, and Washington at the Red Lion Hotel at the Park in Spokane, Wash.. Building on the theme “Retrofitting for Reform,” experts and community leaders will present new strategies and innovations in patient care, workforce retention, technical solutions, and policy development.

“Current economic challenges and ever-changing government regulation require a fresh look and real changes in how we deliver care especially to our rural communities,” said Bettie Rundlett, conference chair for the NW Regional Rural Health Conference. “How do we ‘retrofit for the reform’? How do we sustain the quality standards to which we aspire? By learning from those with expertise, and experience, and enthusiasm,” added Rundlett from the Area Health Education Center, Washington State University Extension.

Two conferences span the three days with the 9th annual Northwest Regional Critical Access Hospital Conference kicking it off March 29. This one-day conference is designed specifically for Critical Access Hospital (CAH) administrators, staff, clinicians, and board members. Attendees learn, share, plan, and maximize the opportunities offered through the CAH designation as experts present on quality/performance improvement, finance, CMS, and more, across nine breakout sessions.

Keynote topics and speakers include:

  • “Office of Rural Health Policy Federal Update” by Tom Morris, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration
  • “The Federal Budget and Health Care Reform” with John Supplitt, American Hospital Association
  • “Generative Culture for Quality – Health Care’s Next Strategic Move” Darlene Bainbridge, RN, of D.D. Bainbridge & Associates, Inc.

The 24th NW Regional Rural Health Conference, March 30 – 31, focuses on retrofitting for reform through sharing proven tips, tools, methods or initiatives. More than 20 breakout sessions will encourage an exchange of information about programs and innovative strategies that can be models for changing rural health and health care delivery, both at state and regional levels.

The conference will open with a Northwest Health Leaders Panel consisting of prominent health leaders from Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. The panel moderator is Karen Jensen, assistant secretary of the Washington State Department of Health.

Wednesday’s Washington Rural Health Association Awards Luncheon will include Washington State Department of Health’s Kris Sparks, also president of the National Rural Health Association and will feature Joe Finkbonner, executive director of the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board. Finkbonner will discuss the impacts of the Affordable Care Act and potential implications on the Indian Health System.

Thursday morning’s keynote features Carlos Olivares, executive director of the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, who will present on expected changes in Health Care Reform and the potential effect it will have in the community health centers and for rural health care providers.

This annual gathering is designed to be of interest to a wide range of rural health advocates including providers, community leaders, administrators, board members, commissioners, policy makers, public health professionals, and others.

The NW Rural Health conference strives to stay abreast of the current policy and regulation developments that impact healthcare delivery at the federal, regional, state and local levels. At the same time, it delivers content inclusive of collaborative rural models, innovative community projects, quality, healthcare information technology and other underlying themes that shape the way business is done.

Detailed information for both conferences is available at Registration is required to attend the conferences and preferred by March 17. NW CAH Conference registration is $60 and Rural Health Conference fees range from $125-$245. Online registration is available at

Conference sponsors supporting rural health include Gold Level: Inland Northwest Health Services, Northwest MedStar, and St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute. Silver level sponsors are the Association of Washington Public Hospital Districts, Virginia Mason Team Medicine, Providence – Sacred Heart Medical Center & Children’s Hospital, and Qualis Health. Bronze level sponsors are GCI Connect MD, The Neenan Company, Parker Smith Feek, Washington Casualty Company, Wipfli, LLP and Graham.

For a copy of the brochure containing information for both conferences, go to the web address listed above or contact the Area Health Education Center of Eastern Washington, WSU Extension at 509-358-7640, 800-279-0705 or