Rural and small hospitals across the Inland Northwest may soon see relief from a federal rule that critics argue could stretch physicians too thin and could lead to fewer medical services being available. The rule requires that a doctor be present in a department during routine procedures, such as blood transfusions and some immunizations. While it passed in 2009, it wasn't enforced at small hospitals until this year. Legislation prohibiting continued enforcement of the rule cleared the U.S. Senate this week and is headed to the House. Unlike large hospitals, small and rural facilities often have no physicians on the premises, though they can be called in for emergencies quickly, if needed.