Midlands Voices: Let’s focus on meeting Nebraska’s rural health care challenges | Columnists


Rural communities that are vibrant, growing and healthy enjoy a handful of similar resources. One is access to education, and another is access to health care. Ask yourself this question: “Would I move my family to a community that does not meet my needs and expectations as they relate to education and health care?” The answer is no!

Access to health care services is vital to recruit and retain businesses and the jobs they bring. After a great deal of hard work, Gothenburg was able to create the right environment to attract Fortune 500 companies. Access to quality health care services was critical to this process. To many seeking the good life in rural Nebraska, driving 20 miles, instead of 100 for a checkup or procedure, is a deal maker. It means employers seeking to fill jobs can ensure future employees that health care for their families is readily available.

Further, a health care clinic and/or hospital complement both urban and rural communities with good-paying, stable jobs. In rural areas, they provide an added incentive for local youth to return to the communities where they grew up: to raise their families and become future health care providers and community leaders.

A recent University of Nebraska Medical Center report, entitled “The Status of the Nebraska Health Care Workforce,” tells us there is some good news. Our state’s number of physicians and nurse practitioners has grown slightly, and there are existing programs that help rural communities “grow their own” future health care professionals. However, there are some very disconcerting findings in the report. It says too many of our rural Nebraska communities face challenges accessing medical, dental, pharmacy, physical therapy and mental health care. And many of our rural health practitioners are nearing retirement age and will be leaving the field faster than they are being replaced.

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