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Letters to the Editor

Rural health care the focus of special day

Hospitals play crucial role in serving public

Amazing things are happening in rural America. Small towns, farming villages and frontier areas are fueled by the creative energy of ordinary citizens who historically have been willing to step forward and take risks in order to provide a wealth of products and resources for the rest of the country.

Unfortunately, these communities face unique health care concerns: lack of health care providers; accessibility issues, particularly transportation and technology; and affordability issues as the result of larger percentages of uninsured and underinsured citizens and greater out-of-pocket health costs.

Meanwhile, rural hospitals and health systems face declining reimbursement rates and disproportionate funding levels that make it challenging to meet physical, social and economic needs of their communities.

These are just a few issues Morrison Community Hospital, the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health, and other local, state and national rural stakeholders brought to light during the second annual National Rural Health Day on Nov. 15.

National Rural Health Day was created to showcase rural America and increase awareness of rural health-related issues. This celebration provided an opportunity to “celebrate the power of rural” by showcasing the good works of Illinois and America’s 59.5 million rural citizens. 

As rural area residents, it’s important to realize the benefits the “power of rural” provides us everyday.

National statistics indicate:

n Rural residents spend more on health care out-of-pocket than their urban counterparts;

n On average, rural residents pay 40 percent of their health care costs out-of-pocket compared with the urban share of one third;

n One in five rural residents spends more than $1,000 out-of-pocket a year;

n Although nearly 20 percent of America’s population lives in rural communities, only 9 percent of all physicians and 12 percent of all pharmacists currently practice there;

n Rural areas average about 30 dentists per 100,000 residents – approximately half the average of urban areas;

n For all ages visiting their health care provider, travel time is longer for rural patients – 14 percent traveled more than 30 minutes, while only 10 percent of urban patients did so; and

n While nearly 85 percent of U.S. residents can reach a level I or level II trauma center within an hour, only 24 percent of rural residents can do so within that time frame – despite the fact that 60 percent of all trauma deaths in the U.S. occur in rural areas.

Rural hospitals and other health care providers are arguably these communities’ most critical resources, serving as both health and human service “anchors” and economic “anchors” in the region.

According to The National Center for Rural Health Works, rural hospitals are typically one of the community’s top two employers (if not the top employer). Each primary care physician in a rural community employs 23 people on average, while each rural general surgeon employs 26, and each rural pharmacy employs 10 – generating $2.7 million in salaries, wages and benefits a year combined.

It is our sincere hope others throughout the community joined the celebration by thanking local health care providers for all the good work they do on their behalf.

Note to readers – Mary Mahan-Deatherage is the director of strategic planning, marketing and physician relations and is a member of the senior leadership team at Morrison Community Hospital.

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