The burden of fixing rural health care

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 18, 2003

How are we going to fix rural health care? You don’t have to answer that question right now, but we need to be working on a solution.

Over the last few days, the issue has received some attention in Selma. Recently Dr. John Wheat visited Selma. He is a professor who is trying to improve the condition of rural health care in this state.

Wheat’s message was we need more doctors. He’s right and he thinks the way to get more doctors into our communities is to encourage youngsters in rural areas to go into medicine. Those who live in rural areas know the advantage of country living and usually wish to return to it someday after they’ve tasted the big city.

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He’s pushing an innovative way to get kids at the high school level involved in medicine by having them attend college classes in the summer on scholarship. Hopefully, they will further pursue medicine and practice it in their hometown communities.

It sounds ambitious but it’s a start and worth trying.

Monday Kobe Little, a representative from Artur Davis’ office, spoke to the Selma Rotary. He said that Lowndes County has one doctor and no practicing dentist. Who would want to live in a community where you can’t get your children’s cavities filled?

While getting students interested in health care early on is a great concept, there’s much more to the puzzle. Physicians and hospitals have to be able to earn a profit to survive. Once we get physicians here, we need to keep them here. The only way we can do that is to use their services.

On the patient side, there are thousands of uninsured people in the Black Belt region. This leads to early deaths because people cannot afford to visit the doctor until it’s an emergency.

The issue is a big one, but we feel like there are capable people interested in taking it on. We realize we have a problem, now we must fix it.