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GREAT HEALTH DIVIDE: Springfield healthcare providers reach out to serve rural communities

Published: Jun. 28, 2021 at 9:32 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Emergency rooms are a critical part of our healthcare system, but the nearest emergency room could be as far as an hour drive away for many in rural areas.

In Springfield, CoxHealth and Mercy are the largest healthcare providers, but for those outside of the metropolitan area, emergency care could be more difficult to obtain.

Mercy Lebanon Administrator Nicki Gamet says some patients drive as long as 30 minutes to receive care. If someone experiences an emergency like a heart attack or a stroke a few minutes could make a life or death difference. Medications, interventions, and certain tests need to be administered in a timely manner to save a person’s life. Both CoxHealth and Mercy are working to find ways to treat patients closer to home.

CoxHealth and mercy have eight facilities outside of Springfield, including Mountain View, Lebanon, and Cassville. If these centers didn’t exist, some patients would need to drive an hour or longer before they could receive care. Both health care providers are using these smaller care centers to help people receive the emergency care they need.

“To have the emergency department in our rural areas cuts that time in half or even you know lower than that and it’s important because we need to be able to see them diagnose them stabilize them and get them to a higher level of care as quickly as possible if that’s what’s needed,” said Gamet.

These emergency departments are beginning to bridge the gap for those who live miles from a larger hospital. Technology is used to help smaller hospitals that may not have specialists on staff.

“Additionally, we have provided ongoing capability for smaller ERs; examples would be our tele-stroke capability,” said CoxHealth Vice President of Hospital Operations Amanda Hedgpeth. “So an emergency department not here in Springfield could actually have one of our neurologists via virtual visit through a computer help administer life-saving medications or life-saving interventions.”

If that medical help is far away, you may have to shoulder more of the healthcare burden before an emergency strikes.

“Knowing that many times in rural communities, your resources may be more spread out, it’s really important to know where your baseline health is. Really pay attention to those signals and what your body is telling you and reach out for care sooner than what you would in an area where you have access to care a little more quickly,” said Hedgpeth.

In the United States, The Centers for Diseas Control reports someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds. The symptoms can include chest pain, feeling weak, light-headed or faint. You might also break out into a cold sweat. If you have these symptoms don’t wait. Get help right away.

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