BOONEVILLE – United States Sen. John Boozman anticipates further hospital assistance from government officials is on the way.


Boozman, during a meeting Tuesday morning with healthcare workers at Mercy Hospital-Booneville, said he anticipates legislation at state and federal levels is coming "soon" to hospitals in Arkansas. He said he expects the legislation will provide assistance to hospitals while enabling them to continue measures that have worked during the pandemic.


Logan County on Tuesday afternoon had 105 active COVID-19 cases. This total follows an outbreak at the Booneville Human Development Center, which at one point reported 66 active cases between staff and clients. Dr. Syed Hamed reported at least six people required hospitalization from that outbreak.


Mercy officials at the meeting said rural hospitals like Mercy-Booneville allow for patients in their communities that contract COVID-19 to receive treatment without being moved to larger communities like Fort Smith.


Boozman said lawmakers are looking at the future functions of hospitals and healthcare professionals in light of needs that have been uncovered during the pandemic. He said he wants rural communities to keep healthcare so they can provide services to people in proximity.


Mercy officials told Boozman they would like to see aspects of healthcare during COVID-19 such as telemedicine and the waiving of medicare replacement policies to stay the same.


"The way you can help us is, as you’re doing now, keep giving us a list as to what you’ve found helpful, because we really have been able to move quickly from the government compared to how we have in the past with these emergency declarations, which really makes your life easier," Boozman said.


Boozman said the federal government is spending "a tremendous amount of money" on COVID-19 testing.


Mercy-Fort Smith Medical Affairs Chief Dr. Paul Bean said testing is one of Mercy’s "biggest barriers" because of how it affects staff and supplies.


"Any help you can give us there will be greatly appreciated," Bean told Boozman.


Boozman said rural hospitals like Mercy-Booneville also help communities maintain and improve services and quality of life in their communities.


"It’s tough in rural America right now," he said. "We’re going to do everything we can to make sure our community hospitals operate."