Gov Deal’s band-aid approach to health care

Hancock County, Georgia’s poorest among our 159 counties, is getting much needed help with access to health care via technology, community leaders, and innovators in delivering care to patients.

Right now people living in Hancock County have to drive to a neighboring county to see a doctor for any and all medical concerns. Even something as simple as an ear infection requires a drive of at least 25 miles to another county. Getting to the doctor can be a huge expense and feat of logistics for Georgia’s rural citizens, including those in Hancock County.

A new program, with a price tag of just $105,000, will now bring state of art health care to Hancock County’s citizens. Patients, Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT), and doctors,  connected through secure technology, will work to determine medical problems and where a patient needs to receive care. Emergency room trips and the cost of care should be reduced, while patient health outcomes, and the establishment of medical homes for patients, should improve.

I don’t want to diminish the importance of this program for Hancock County, which has Governor Deal’s support.

But it is important to understand that  making access to health care easier and more affordable for Hancock County’s citizens via technology, isn’t  enough to address the failure to provide affordable health care to all of Georgia’s citizens.

And a  pilot program announced by the Rural Health Stabilization Committee last week won’t either. The Committee  will create four hub and spoke type health care delivery sites. Dcotors and EMTs, along with the patient and technology, will assess medical problems and get the patient to the appropriate place for care.

Using technology to care for patients isn’t new in Georgia. Telehealth has effectively been used for emergencies, specialty consultations, and mental health care in our state for years. What these programs offer should increase access to very good health care, reduce costs, save time, and improve patient health outcomes.

But these programs aren’t going to solve the bigger problems of delivering health care to Georgians and making it affordable. The Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee wasn’t convened to address Medicaid Expansion. Gov Deal’s spokesman Brian Robinson has been clear about that.

Governor Deal remains a staunch opponent of saving our state millions of dollars with Medicaid Expansion and improving access to health care for underserved Georgians.  Instead, he and his buddies in the Georgia General Assembly, chose to constrict access to health care via Medicaid Expansion. That also means our elected officials have redirected the federal tax dollars Georgians send to Washington every year to states who have chosen to expand care and reduce costs with Medicaid Expansion.

Hancock County’s new telehealth program, coupled with the hub and spoke pilot program designed by the Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee, are big pluses for a few communities.

Governor Deal and the General Assembly can do more for Georgia’s citizens who need access to health care. We need more than a lick and a promise.

 

 

Four and counting

petition-deal-walks-away-hospitals

Remember that little ice event we had in Middle Georgia last week? As bucket trucks streamed into Washington County, preparations were underway to house approximately 25 linemen in the wellness center at Washington County Regional Hospital.

While the storm was making its way east towards us, Lower Oconee Hospital in Glenwood closed its doors. That’s the fourth small hospital to close while Governor Deal has been in office. Fifteen to twenty more are at risk for closure, but much-needed federal dollars are being turned away by Deal and his supporters in the General Assembly.

Beth O’Connor, the Virginia Rural Health Association’s Executive Director wrote in the Roanoke Times yesterday, “Hospitals are not businesses. If someone goes to a hair salon, grocery, clothing store or movie theater, but does not have money, they will not receive service. But federal regulations require hospitals to treat anyone who walks through the Emergency Room door – regardless of ability to pay.”

O’Connor goes on to point out that Virginia’s legislators are turning away $5M per day of federal funding that her state’s small hospitals need. Those federal dollars are tax dollars paid for by hard-working Virginians. But Virginia’s tax dollars are going to other states.

So are ours. Georgia’s tax dollars are also going to other states where leaders know Medicaid Expansion makes sense for the health of small hospitals and the people they serve.

And now there are efforts underway to allow a part-time legislature to have the power to fix Georgia’s already hobbled healthcare system.

Governor Deal could take action right now, today, and direct the tax dollars we’ve already paid, to come back to Georgia. Instead of taking the long view that stretches beyond November’s election, Governor Deal refuses to help small hospitals and the 1 Million rural citizens who count on them every day.

What will happen when Governor Deal hits the campaign trail outside Atlanta and finds it littered with closed hospitals? Will the four counties now without a hospital be campaign stops? Will he be met at campaign rallies in rural Georgia by already angry teachers and recently unemployed hospital healthcare professionals?

You can tell Governor Deal and our state legislators to bring our federal tax dollars home to serve Georgians. Sign the petition and tell Governor Deal to Save Georgia’s Hospitals Today!


Rep Sharon Cooper attempts a 180

I hope Rep Sharon Cooper didn’t hurt herself while attempting that 180 on her statement last week about rural hospitals when she said, “There are some of those rural hospitals that need to close.”

Yesterday Cooper attempted to dial back her comments by telling the Atlanta Journal Constitution that closing rural hospitals “would have serious consequences on the affected community, hurting it economically and limiting access to acute care for Georgians.”

Cooper went on to say, as reported by Jim Galloway today,“If we don’t act to make real, substantive changes, we very well could be faced with the hard reality of hospital closures in rural parts of this state, no matter how many short gap measures we take, leaving many communities without the economic engine and access to care people depend on.”

Nurse Cooper and many of the urban based legislators under the Gold Dome suffer from a chronic disease that rural residents can identify in just seconds. I don’t know what the Latin derivation is, but it translates to, “I’m from Atlanta and I know what is best for ‘you people’ who don’t use GA 400 every day.”

Cooper and others in her camp have refused Medicaid Expansion dollars, and in doing so have made it harder for rural hospitals to cover their costs, let alone recruit providers or make even modest capital improvements to aging facilities. No one is advocating for perpetual “short gap” measures as solutions for rural hospitals.

The problems of improving the health status of rural communities are complex. What won’t begin to solve them is a lot of pontificating by metro legislators who think their zip code makes them experts on all things rural.

Rural Georgia needs to suck it up

Health professionals know minutes, 60 to be exact, matter following a stroke. For someone struggling to breathe during an asthma attack, or stopping the bleeding after an accident, or consumed by a mental health crisis, seconds matter. Minutes are too long.  State Representative Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, should know this. She’s a registered nurse.

She also has the luxury of living in a metro county with a wealth of hospitals, four to be exact, according to the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce.

Cooper opposes the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid funding, a critical financial piece for rural hospitals. Walking lockstep with Gov Deal and fellow state legislator Rep Jason Spencer, Nurse Cooper told WABE in Atlanta, “There are some of those rural hospitals that need to close.”

I guess we’re just spoiled out here in rural Georgia, expecting to have access to an Hospital_Rightemergency room without driving 20+ miles to get care. All 1 Million of us rural Georgians who were cared for in small rural hospitals last year just need to suck it up, buckle up, and floor it.

Who cares how far away the hospital is? It’s only time and miles.