The case for local, quality healthcare in honor of National Rural Health Day
Danni Gearhart, CEO, Gundersen St. Joseph's Hospital and Clinics.
Thursday, Nov. 15 marks National Rural Health Day, a day set aside to honor the community-minded, compassionate spirit that prevails in rural America. It is also an opportunity to bring to light the unique healthcare challenges faced by rural communities while celebrating what they have achieved through collaboration between organizations and citizens alike.
Rural communities like ours are great places to live. That is why over 60 million people in the United States call them home. These small towns and farming communities provide opportunities for unique initiatives as people work together for the benefit of all.
Rural communities are faced with unique healthcare challenges; accessibility due to their remote location, a shortage of trained medical staff because of a smaller population, an aging population suffering from a greater number of chronic conditions and a larger number of uninsured and underinsured citizens.
It is not all doom and gloom however, as organizations like Gundersen St. Joseph's and Gundersen Health System look to align their strategic plans to focus on rural healthcare. A key component of this strategy and evidence of this new focus is the construction of our new facility.
The new home of Gundersen St. Joseph's Hospital and Clinics is an investment in the future health of our community. This new facility will improve access to local healthcare services, leverage advancements in medical technology and newer ways of working and be a launchpad for community health improvement as the organization looks to take its dedication of serving others beyond the boundaries of traditional healthcare – helping others in their homes, schools and communities.
This new facility is part of Gundersen Health System's commitment to rural citizens. Providing a range of healthcare services close to home is better for patient outcomes as patients are more likely to keep appointments when they do not have to travel far. Gundersen's commitment to excellence and ability to leverage advancements in medical technology means more procedures can be done more efficiently and locally, allowing patients to be at home recovering instead of enduring long drive times to and from larger facilities in bigger cities.
Providing care close to home is also more economical for the patient and reduces the overall cost of healthcare. Anyone who has experienced the need for regular trips back and forth to bigger cities knows that the expense adds up and is often overlooked when talking about the cost of healthcare. Such trips may require more time off work for the patient and anyone supporting the patient with travel – resulting in a loss of earnings and further financial impact. The new home of Gundersen St. Joseph's is an investment in the financial future of rural communities like ours as much as it is an investment in our region's health.
Care for our environment and natural resources is a top priority in our rural regions. Many individuals within our communities are employed within the agriculture industry and environmental stewardship is a high priority. This priority is shared by Gundersen St. Joseph's and Gundersen Health System. Simple initiatives such as Gundersen's dedication to providing visiting medical staff to rural affiliates such as Gundersen St. Joseph's Hospital benefits the environment. A surgeon traveling from La Crosse to Gundersen St. Joseph's to see twelve patients removes twelve vehicles from the road that would be traveling the same distance in the other direction.
Rural communities also experience a wide range of emergency situations. Farming accidents involving chemicals and equipment, house fires caused by antiquated wiring and construction, and traffic accidents are just some of the common emergencies in rural Wisconsin. Gundersen St. Joseph's Hospital has a level four trauma-certified emergency room. This certifies the hospital can provide advanced life support for trauma situations, ensuring patients get timely, professional care, are stabilized and transferred to a higher trauma level facility for further care. Gundersen St. Joseph's Hospital also participates in Priority One, a Gundersen Health System program with rural emergency departments that aims to achieve fast transport times for patients having a heart attack.
Gundersen St. Joseph's and Gundersen Health System are dedicated to the future of rural healthcare. The net effect of this investment in rural healthcare will be a healthier, more prosperous life for all.
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