Rural Health Day hitting home

Published 5:51 pm Friday, November 11, 2011

By Chrissy Brooker

For The Times


On November 17, the attention of the nation is being drawn to the importance of healthcare providers in rural areas through the first annual National Rural Health Day campaign. Joining in this celebration of service, Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital is sponsoring activities for residents in its medical service area.

“The purpose of NRHD is to showcase rural America, increase awareness of rural health-related issues, and promote efforts in addressing those issues,” said Mike Marshall, CEO/Administrator. “This is so important because in Alabama, and nationally, rural hospitals not only represent the first and last line of medical care, but also represent one of the largest economic drivers in the communities where they reside.

“For example, in the State of Alabama over half the hospitals statewide are smaller than 100 beds and represent one of the largest employers in the communities where they provide care. As such, it’s important that we highlight the impact that we have nationally.”

Among the events scheduled for the day locally mwill be a series of free health screenings, including blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol checks, in the hospital’s main lobby from 1 to 3 p.m. Employees of the agency’s Rural Assistance Program for Churches and Schools (RAPCS) program.

“From a medical perspective not only in our area, but in the South as a whole diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity are some of the major medical challenges our population faces,” Marshall added. “Those problems are compounded by a lack of access to primary care, transportation issues, and other factors that we work to address daily through programs such as RAPCS. We are constantly looking for ways to draw attention to these problems so that hopefully we can educate the population we serve as to the importance of prevention and healthy living.”

The RAPCS program and others have enabled the hospital to reach out to underserved communities in its service area that, heretofore, had not had easy access to preventive care. As a result, they have noted a 70 percent decrease the number of self-pay admissions through the emergency room over the last five years. “This is one of our most effective ways to reduce preventable admissions and do our part to lower the cost of healthcare,” Marshall noted.

The establishment of numerous specialty care clinics at BWWMH is another important way in which the hospital provides quality rural healthcare. “This is so important to our service area because now people do not have to travel to larger cities to access specialty services. It is very important that we bring a wide variety of healthcare services as close to our patients as possible,” he said.

Marshall is quick to point out that providing quality healthcare is not just taken care of by the hospital. “I think it’s also important to not only recognize the hospital and the professionals that work here, but also our medical staff and related healthcare entities such as the pharmacies, nursing homes, durable medical equipment companies, and ambulance service who are also serving our community. We all work together to provide the best care possible.”

While celebrating its employees, medical staff and volunteers on Nov. 17, BWWMH will also recognize the first local Rural Health Physician of the Year as chosen by a vote of the community via ballots at the hospital and through the agency’s facebook page. Other’s recognized will include the organizations that provide assistance to the RAPCS program by sponsoring events in their communities and/or through financial assistance. These agencies include Little Drug Company, Linden; Little Zion Holiness Church, Dixons Mills; Theo Ratliff Activity, Center, Demopolis; Linden Nutrition Center, Gooden Hill Baptist Church, Putnam; County Line Baptist Church, Magnolia; Demopolis Nutrition Center, Rockbabylon Missionary Baptist Church, Dixons Mills; New Morning Star Baptist Church, Demopolis; CEMEX, Demopolis; and the Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital Auxiliary.