rural health

Avera eCARE

GARDEN CITY, Kansas — When Christi Graber checked into the St. Catherine Hospital emergency room late last year, she thought she was having a heart attack.

Her left arm ached, she felt dizzy, and she experienced shortness of breath.

The hospital’s cardiologist wasn’t available that night or for the next three days, so Graber had two options: Travel by ambulance to see a cardiologist more than two hours away in Hays during a snowstorm; or simply go home. Ultimately, she and her husband drove home.

They worried both about the weather and the cost.

Rural Coloradans may have better access to psychiatric care soon.

The United Health Foundation awarded a $1.5 million grant to the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence to address a shortage of mental health providers in rural areas. The grant will recruit and support 39 working rural Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Behavioral Health Fellows while they earn a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) certificate.

The Texas Tribune

Next Tuesday at West Texas A&M University, the Texas Tribune will be presenting a public event entitled "Underserved: A Conversation on Rural Health Care."

For decades, the populations of rural Texas have been stagnant or declining. Scores of rural hospitals have closed in recent years, and rural residents of the Texas Panhandle have seen their access to proper medical care become increasingly limited.

Sitting at the edge of the gently undulating landscape of the Flint Hills in east-central Kansas, the town of Hillsboro boasts a small hospital that has survived a remarkable roller coaster ride even as other rural hospitals stagger and fail.  

Nine months ago, everything seemed to be coming apart at the 15-bed facility, Hillsboro Community Hospital, which traces its roots back more than a century.

FORT SCOTT, Kansas — On a hot June day, as the Good Ol’ Days Festival was in full swing, 7-year-old Kaidence Anderson sat in the shade with her family waiting for a medevac helicopter to land.

A crowd had gathered to see the display pre-arranged by staff at the town’s historic fort.

“It’s going to show us how it’s going to help other people because we don’t have the hospital anymore,” the redheaded girl explained.

Stephanneth Adams plans to leave Kansas.

The nurse practitioner landed in the state’s rural southwest — where she saw patients in Garden City, Dodge City and Liberal — through a federal program aimed at stubborn health care shortages in urban and rural America.

But why stay? Adams has her eyes on Nevada, a state that lets its most educated nurses roll up their sleeves and work without permanently needing, as they do in Kansas, permission from a physician.

This story was updated to add the comments of Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly.

Oswego Community Hospital, a 12-bed critical access hospital in southeast Kansas, abruptly closed down on Thursday, citing insufficient revenue to cover its operating expenses.

The hospital’s board released a statement saying the hospital had “weathered low patient volumes; high number of uninsured patients; low reimbursement rates; difficulty in getting payment from private insurance providers; low Medicaid and Medicare rates; and the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid.”

Rural hospitals aren’t just providers of medicine and health care, but also are often major employers and a massive part of a town’s tax base. However, mounting challenges are forcing these hospitals to merge and close in droves.

Emergency room nurse Nathan Craft and his wife Annie don’t expect anything to be easy as they pull up stakes for the next two years. The RV they remodeled will be tight quarters for them and their two preschool-age kids. And there’s a certain amount of stress in not knowing where they’re going to set down next.

From Texas Standard:

The system of small hospitals that provides emergency and other health care to millions of rural Texans is in trouble. As many as 18 rural hospitals in Texas have closed since 2013, and many more may be on the verge. These closures can devastate local economies and leave some of the most vulnerable Texans with few health care options.

Kansas lawmakers gave the go-ahead Monday to expand telemedicine services after reaching agreement on abortion language that had threatened to scuttle the move.

The bill cleared the state Senate and House by large margins, but only after eleventh-hour brinksmanship that gave anti-abortion forces the assurances they demanded.

Kansans for Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion organization, fought for weeks to maintain a clause in the legislation designed to discourage a court challenge over its ban on drug-induced abortions.

TexasExplorer98 / Flickr Creative Commons

On a recent report card comparing rural health care among states, Texas received a grade of D-.

The report card, published last month by researchers at Texas Tech University, compared several key metrics including mortality, quality of life and access to care.

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It’s no secret that rural Americans don’t have enough options when it comes to health care. In fact, life expectancies for rural Americans have been dropping. Meanwhile, rural Americans are at more likely to die from each of the five leading causes of death in America.

This story was updated at 4:24 p.m. to include comments from the CEO of McPherson Hospital.

Two Kansas hospitals have been selected to take part in a federal demonstration program aimed at ensuring access to health care in underserved areas.

The two, McPherson Hospital in McPherson and Morton County Health System in Elkhart, were among 13 nationwide chosen for the demonstration project being conducted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

No one at the hospital in Fulton, Missouri (population 12,790) had ever heard of a management consultant named Jorge Perez until he showed up at its potluck in September.


ReSound / Wikimedia Commons

Many residents of the High Plains suffer from hearing loss. Experts say if the condition goes untreated, it can lead to social withdrawal, depression and anxiety, along with poor job performance. Yet, in many places, High Plains residents have found that the condition is not covered by their medical plans.

laughlin.af.mil

Suicide rates are rising in the United States and rural areas are being hit the hardest, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As WebMD reports, in the years from 2001 and 2015, suicide rates in the U.S. rose 20 percent. During that period, half a million Americans took their own lives. The problem in small towns was consistently worse than in urban areas, with rural areas showing higher suicide rates across all age groups.

When Sarah Scantling went into labor this summer, she had to drive 30 miles and across state lines.

Three years earlier, the only maternity ward where she lives in Pemiscot County, Missouri closed down. Scantling had to choose between a handful of other hospitals in the region between 20 and 70 miles away. She chose to give birth in the hospital in Dyersburg, Tennessee.

U.S. Marine Corps / Wikimedia Commons

Opiates continue to ravage rural communities in Oklahoma, and the question of how to combat the problem is expected to dominate the 2018 legislative session.

As Oklahoma Watch reports, the state is doing some things right, but in other areas the response to the drug epidemic has lagged behind other states. Overdoses from methamphetamine and heroin have increased in recent years. In fact, last year, a record 899 Oklahomans died from drug overdoses.

Nellis Air Force Base

Almost 50 million rural Americans lack access to sufficient dental care.

As Mother Jones reports, in large swaths of the country it can be difficult to make a dental appointment even if you have private insurance. And for Americans who rely on Medicaid, it can be practically impossible to find dental care in small towns. Fewer than half of the dentists in the United States accept Medicaid, and many of those who do are in the cities.

Pixabay

In the last three years, 3,000 Oklahomans have lost their lives due to the opioid crisis.

Now, as the Enid News And Eagle reports, state Attorney General Mike Hunter is doing his best to rein in the scourge of opioids.

But he’s got an uphill battle.

In 2014, almost 10 million prescriptions for opioids were filled statewide - the equivalent of giving everyone in the state 50 pills.

Public Domain

Washita county, in western Oklahoma, has given up on the Women, Infant, and Children program, The Oklahoman reports.

The WIC program provides nutrition services to young children and pregnant women. The announcement came from the Cordell Memorial Hospital, who administers the program. Officials said they can no longer afford to provide the nutrition for free to local mothers and children.

Nick Youngson / Creative Commons

Oklahoma will soon announce a new health care initiative aimed at reducing premiums and expanding coverage for everyday Oklahomans.

As Oklahoma Watch reports, the Affordable Care Act has struggled recently. Blue Cross Blue Shield is the only remaining insurer on the state exchange.

Twenty-four-year-old Kalee Woody says that when she was growing up in Bronaugh, Missouri, she saw the small town slowly fading. Businesses closed, growth stagnated and residents had to drive to other places to see a doctor.

It is a town that, like many towns in rural areas of Missouri and other Midwest and Great Plains states, is recognized by the federal government as having a shortage of healthcare providers.

In voting for a $1.2 billion tax increase to bolster the budget for the next two years, the Kansas Legislature avoided a projected $900 budget hole and began restoring past cuts to the mental health system.

When evening falls, Brian Hunt makes his way to a comfortable chair in a sun room on the south side of his house near La Cygne, Kansas. But he’s not settling in to relax. He’s going to work.

Dale Denwalt / The Journal-Record

Despite a years-long crisis that has led to dozens of rural hospital closures across the U.S., there are signs of life for at least one facility in Western Oklahoma.

As Colorado Public Radio reports, after the reforms of the Affordable Care Act, Colorado’s uninsured rate dropped from 14.3 percent in 2013 to 6.7 percent in 2015 and about 500,000 people in the state gained health insurance coverage and about 400,000 people got covered through expanded eligibility of Medicaid.

NewsOK.com

According to a new study, life expectancies in some parts of Oklahoma are growing at a more rapid pace than in others.

NewsOK reports that the Oklahoma Panhandle has exhibited a marked increase in life expectancy since 1980, showing a gain of between four and five percent, one of the strongest surges in the state.

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