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National Rural Health Day: Highlighting the Importance of Small Town, Community Hospitals

Doctors and NursesOn Thursday, November 19th, Door County Medical Center is joining hospitals throughout the country to celebrate National Rural Health Day. In celebrating National Rural Health Day, we honor and recognize the healthcare workers and facilities that keep small towns across America healthy, and highlight the healthcare challenges—in particular, the unique set of challenges that have come with the coronavirus pandemic—that face rural American communities today.

A lack of access to quality healthcare affects millions of rural Americans every year. 

Approximately 20% of the population of the United States—roughly 65 million people—lives in rural parts of the country. However, for this population, access to high quality healthcare has become increasingly difficult. Between 2010 and January 2019 for instance, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) reported that 95 rural hospitals permanently closed their doors. While the reasons for these closures are rooted in a complex mix of economic, social and geographic factors, the results are generally the same: single healthcare systems often end up providing services for excessively large areas of the country. According to a recent NPR article, a single healthcare provider in central Wisconsin now covers around 35,000 square miles.  

The importance of rural, community hospitals, located in close proximity to their communities, cannot be understated. Currently, many people in rural America have to travel large distances to receive high quality care, and the long travel times come with a number of negative consequences, the two primary consequences being:

  • Higher disease incidence and worse outcomes: People that need to travel large distances to receive healthcare, tend to see a physician less frequently. This results in less preventative care, a higher incidence of illness, and disease progression that is further along. 

  • Less access to emergency medical services (EMS): A 2017 study by the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill found that accidental injuries were 16% more common in rural areas than in urban areas. Unfortunately, fewer rural hospitals results in longer wait times for EMS, often at moments when mere minutes can make a big difference in patient outcomes.

Community hospitals play a vital role in local economies

Communty hospitals not only support their community’s physical health, but also their economic health. According to the National Rural Health Association, hospitals in smaller American communities are “typically the first, second, or third largest employer,” in that community, and provide not only the “obvious clinical and ancillary jobs, [but also] a host of supporting positions, building and construction, facility maintenance and more.” Additionally, with a thriving rural hospital system comes increased economic activity that ripples outward as “demand for schools, housing, transportation, and other services go up.” In fact, in 2018 the American Hospital Association reported that “every dollar spent by a hospital supports roughly $2.30 of additional business activity.”

Supporting the health of the Door County community

With clinics in Sturgeon Bay, Fish Creek, Washington Island and Algoma, Door County Medical Center has led the way in providing high-quality, accessible care to Door And Kewaunee County residents 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, for more than 75 years. With more than 175 physicians on DCMC’s medical staff, we are always available to address your health needs and concerns. 

If you need to see a specialist, there is no need for long travel times to an urban medical center. Door County Medical Center not only boasts readily available primary and family care, but also an array of specialties and departments, which include the Women’s and Children’s Center, the Door Orthopedic Center, Behavioral Health, General Surgery, The Door County Cancer Center, The Heartburn and Reflux Center of Door County, rehabilitation services and skilled nursing facility, among others.

Additionally, Door County Medical Center plays an important role in supporting the economic health of the community. By employing 667 hospital staff, and supporting an additional 552 jobs through hospital purchases, DCMC is the largest employer in Door County. It is estimated that DCMC accounts for nearly $136,997,824 in overall economic activity and contributes $90,236,461 in total income to the Door County community.

Reliable community healthcare during the coronavirus pandemic

2020 has been a year like no other, and as the coronavirus pandemic has stretched into its eighth month, the role that Door County Medical Center plays in supporting the health of the community has become increasingly important.

In order to address the county’s increased medical needs, DCMC has taken a number of steps to ensure we can continue to provide the same level of high-quality care to all who need it. Some of the steps the hospital has taken include:

  • Increasing capacity: Should the need arise, DCMC has implemented a surge plan that increased capacity beyond its 25 licensed beds and provides dedicated Covid isolation rooms.
  • Providing and expanding testing capabilities: DCMC has been able to provide coronavirus tests since the beginning of the pandemic. Currently, we are able to perform nearly 100% of all coronavirus tests in-house, reducing turnaround times to 48 hours or less.
  • Providing access to all authorized COVID-19 treatments: The three FDA approved treatments for COVID-19—Dexamethasone, Remdesivir, and convalescent plasma—are all available, and in use, at DCMC.
  • Holding Facebook Live Q&As: The transmission of accurate information and knowledge is perhaps one of the most powerful tools we have to slow the transmission of the coronavirus. Dr. Jim Heise and Dr. Amy Fogarty, and Health Officer Susan Powers, have been holding live Q&As on Facebook—answering the community’s questions, addressing community concerns and providing the information you need to keep you and your family safe.
  • Continuing to address health concerns outside of the pandemic: Of course, as with any given year, people will continue to need care for all of the other non-COVID-19 related illnesses, ailments and conditions that occur, and the adjustments that we have made will allow for the same level of attention and high-quality care that you have come to expect at DCMC.

Building community connections, both large and small

An important aspect of small town healthcare systems is the close connection to both the individual resident and the greater community. On the individual level, our healthcare providers are able to develop relationships with individual community members in a manner not usually found in cities—in other words, at DCMC you’ll get the kind of one-on-one care and extra attention that is often lost in large, urban medical centers. On the greater community level, Door County Medical Center takes a holistic approach to community health by supporting and partnering with more than fifty Door and Kewaunee County community organizations, across all walks of life, in order to, in turn, support and improve the quality of life and well-being of all residents.

Published 11/13/2020 8:00:00 AM
Tags: Awareness, community health, health, healthcare, news, rural, rural healthcare

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