Event aims to start a conversation about health care in rural Minnesota – Duluth News Tribune

ROCHESTER, Minnesota – Bring the unpredictability of an open microphone format to the relaxed setting of a local winery, then call for ideas on healthcare in rural Minnesota. Those are all the ingredients for a lively town hall on Tuesday, September 27th in Cannon Falls.

The Improving Patient Care in Rural Minnesota event is the third in a September series of public forums hosted by Minnesota Public Radio’s Kerri Miller as part of the Rural Voice MN series.

The Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, The Northland Foundation, The Initiative Foundation, and with help from Compeer Financial and Mayo Clinic Health System, are sponsoring the early evening discussion, all hoping to provide a broader perspective than is possible with major city health reporting is.

The September 27 event will crown a series of similar Rural Voice Town Halls dedicated to building new businesses (Tuesday, September 20 in St. Joseph) and educating and training the creative workforce in rural Minnesota (Wednesday, September 21 in Chisholm). ).

“We’re excited to take a leadership role and really hear from the community,” said Dr. Robert Albright, regional vice president of the Mayo Clinic Health System in southeast Minnesota. “It includes what we are doing well as healthcare providers, where we can do better, and sharing the partnership we want to build as we think about how healthcare will change over the next five years. 10 or 20 years or something.”

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Attendees hope the event will merge the perspectives of professionals with patients and the public for an unscripted 90 minutes about what is happening in a changing landscape for healthcare in Minnesota’s small towns and remote communities.

For Albright and other attendees scheduled to attend, these include the continued adoption of telehealth and mobile healthcare systems against a backdrop of provider consolidation, a shrinking workforce and the unique concerns faced by rural Minnesotans.

“What we keep hearing from our community members is that they are concerned about justice, they are concerned about their ability to afford care, but whatever number one and number two is behavioral health issues and drug use disorders. I think these are really important conversations that we need to continue to have together… and to reach out to our community members.”

“In many rural counties, we have an aging population,” said Tim Penny, former representative for Minnesota’s 1st congressional district and president and CEO of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. “So how we address these needs is crucial in rural areas. Another issue is the distance to healthcare facilities and the increasing importance of technology and telemedicine in addressing some of these aspects of healthcare,” he said.

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A recurring theme in emerging conversations about rural health care at the regional and national levels is the closure of small-town hospitals by larger health systems. According to the Center for Economic Analysis of Rural Health, 140 rural hospitals across the country have closed over the past 12 years, “impairing the ability to address life-threatening problems in a timely manner.”

In a new report, researchers found that when a rural hospital closes or shrinks in size, closures triggered not only the loss of hospital spending on emergency services, but also “a reduction in employee spending … on restaurants, professional services and other healthcare services.” The Mayo Clinic has faced criticism for closing clinics and hospitals in southern Minnesota in recent years, giving a local face to the statewide phenomenon.

“I expect it’s going to come,” Penny said of the consolidation. “We’re going to have an audience there … it’s really going to be like a roaming mic where everyone in the audience has a chance to speak up and raise concerns and that’s obviously going to lead to others speaking up to.” to reply or continue discussion. I can’t imagine it going anywhere without this issue being addressed.”

for dr Cindy Firkins Smith, senior vice president of rural health for Minnesota’s CentraCare central health system, says the problems driving change are bigger than any single health system.

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“I think it’s really important to have discussions about rural health care and what the future holds for our people,” said Firkins Smith, who called the event “important enough for me to drive from Spicer to Cannon Falls on Tuesday night.” .”

“Rural health is in crisis across the country,” she said. “Right now we have a scenario where we have a health care inequity. Where we just don’t have enough people to provide healthcare to people in rural areas.”

She cited data from the Minnesota Department of Health showing that one in three rural doctors plans to retire in the next three to five years “and we’re not producing enough clinicians to replace them.”

“We’re not training enough doctors, we have a lot of doctors who are retiring, we don’t have enough allied health professionals, and we’re going to have a very difficult time providing the health care we need.”

  • What: Rural Voice Town Hall: “What does it take to improve patient care in rural Minnesota?”
  • When: Tuesday 27 September. Doors open at 6:30am. Beer, wine available. Discussion from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. followed by a reception.
  • Where: Cannon River Winery, 421 Mill Street West, Cannon Falls, Minnesota
  • Info: www.ruralvoice.org

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