A man walks into one of Missouri’s rural health clinics, says “bees,” and collapses on the floor. There’s no punchline, and this isn’t the opening of a mystery. It’s a true story of an individual who presented at a hospital’s rural health clinic after being swarmed and stung repeatedly. Were it not for the clinic, he might not have survived the attack.
Access to health services is important for all Missourians. When a condition is life threatening — when minutes matter — the stakes are higher.
On Tuesday, I made a presentation to the Missouri Farm Bureau’s State Resolutions Committee, at the invitation of Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst. As I arrived, the attendees were still discussing agriculture issues, including the effect of the recent flooding on planting and crop prices. The state’s farmers are in a significant bind this year — federal policy is influencing their markets, and nature is shaping the prospect for crops. As the group listened to statisticians’ and agronomists’ estimates of the prospects for this year, I found myself reflecting on the similar challenges faced by the state’s farmers and rural health care providers.
The Missouri Farm Bureau’s mission statement is emblazoned across the top of its website. It states, “Advocating for farmers, the rural way of life and all Missourians.” Preparing for the meeting, it occurred to me that I should offer a mission moment as well. Mine started with bees.
As I worked through my presentation, I remained focused on the importance of connecting state policies with the people who are affected by those policies. The state’s Time Critical Diagnosis system is a good example. To underscore the point, I shared another story — one shared with me by a hospital executive from northern Missouri.
An older couple arrived at their hospital emergency department with the wife displaying signs of a stroke. The hospital had spent a significant amount of time and energy preparing for state TCD certification. However, the hospital’s TCD designation, while in process, was not complete since funding for certification had been cut from the state budget. Call it fate or luck, but because the woman was delivered to the hospital by her husband in the family car, she was able to receive lifesaving treatment locally since the hospital was awaiting official state designation as a center. Had her husband called an ambulance, the hospital would likely have been bypassed — extending her time to receive care significantly and jeopardizing her chances of a good outcome. Although the hospital has subsequently received state certification, the implications were clear.
On numerous issues, the Farm Bureau and MHA align. The Farm Bureau is an important organization in Jefferson City, but it derives its strength from rural leaders at the county level throughout the state. And, while the Farm Bureau is focused primarily on agriculture, it is increasingly recognizing the importance of rural health to agriculture and rural communities.
MHA’s Reimagine Rural Health agenda embraces policies that can help sustain rural health care and rural communities — the Farm Bureau has been supportive of many of these efforts. Moreover, late last year, Gov. Parson held a rural health summit discussing the need for investments in rural health — from behavioral health and substance abuse treatment to broadband and telemedicine. These are important steps forward.
Members of the Farm Bureau’s resolutions committee are sincere in efforts to understand and act when they see that the policies we support deliver benefits to the communities we share. In the past, in addition to supporting the TCD program, they have adopted resolutions in support of the health care workforce and better access, among other issues.
Many of the social, geographic and demographic challenges that today’s farmers face also are faced by rural hospitals. These include policy and financial headwinds, and the diminishment of the community institutions that historically have supported economic and social vitality.
Just as farmers have reinvented the family farm to remain viable, rural hospitals must reimagine rural health to keep their communities vital. That means helping communities recognize the economic value of rural products — including rural health care — and keeping much of that value local.
Building stronger links to agriculture is essential to our momentum toward a healthier state. Among our shared values is advocacy for all Missourians. Whether an individual lives in St. Louis County or Scotland County shouldn’t determine the quality of their care or their access when they need it.
My stories were about more than bees and TCDs. They were designed to illustrate that the people the Farm Bureau and rural hospitals serve are the same.
We have a lot of work to do to ensure rural Missourians have access to the care they need. The Farm Bureau can be an important partner in that effort.
Let me know what you think.
Herb B. Kuhn
MHA President and CEO
In This Issue
HHS Proposes New Nondiscrimination Standards For Health And Health Education Programs
Final Federal Rule Revises Health Reimbursement Arrangements
MHA Seeks Member Feedback On MHA Today
MHA Seeks Member Feedback On MHA Today
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June 10, 2019
MHA Convenes Hospitals To Strengthen Workplace Violence Prevention Programs
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Governor Approves State Budget Bills
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Patient And Family Engagement Resources Available
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June 13, 2019
MHA Eligible To Participate As NQIIC Prime Contractor
Commonwealth Fund Releases 2019 Scorecard On State Health System Performance
CMS Announces IPFQR Education Session
Learn How To Get The Best Out Of People At MHA’s Upcoming Seminar