Community support essential to good rural health care

Such support has allowed Garfield County Hospital and Dayton General Hospital to come up with money needed to operate and expand.

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Access to affordable health care is among the top concerns for all Americans.

But the problem is of even greater concern in rural areas where a smaller population makes it difficult to attract doctors and support full-service hospitals. The situation is dire in many small, rural communities.

Fortunately, rural Southeastern Washington -- the small towns between Walla Walla and Lewiston-Clarkston -- have hospitals because of incredible community support.

Earlier this year the voters in Pomeroy area approved a Garfield County Public Hospital District levy that will serve as financial first aid so it can weather a downturn in patient numbers as well as a smaller reimbursement from Medicaid and Medicare.

The district will use the one-year $750,000 levy as leverage for financing to help buy time until reimbursements for expenditures begins to stabilize.

The hospital district is one of the smallest in the state, but it has long-term care, hospital, emergency room and clinic. It is important to the community.

The one-year passed with a 61 percent majority, which illustrates the depth of the community support in the current economic conditions.

A little closer to Walla Walla, Dayton General Hospital is getting strong support so it can improve the hospital and medical care.

Columbia Rural Electric Association recently offered a $150,000 low-interest loan to improve the hospital's emergency room. The current emergency room consists of one room with a curtain to separate beds for two patients. The project will remodel that room, and create two more rooms from the hospital's old operating room.

Columbia REA will use rural development funds for the five-year loan. These funds are to be used for projects that benefit local business and community development.

This is a terrific show of community support.

Dayton General Hospital is part of Columbia County Health System, which includes clinics in Waitsburg and Dayton. It has a nursing home, emergency room and acute care.

Sure, those who live between Walla Walla and Lewiston-Clarkston do have to go to those larger cities for much of their medical care, but having nearby care for emergency situations and to reduce travel is essential to these small communities.

These facilities are only possible because of the strong community support through the region.

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