NEW HAMPTON, Iowa - It's been a controversial topic across our area: access to health care in rural communities.
Some hospitals have had to close clinics in small towns, and even ambulance services are feeling the pinch due to cuts and growing expenses.
Many that work in the health care field are fed up with the current state of affairs, and shared their concerns at a public forum Friday in New Hampton.
From Medicaid reimbursements, to frustration finding an ambulance, there were a few concerning issues brought up during the forum.
"We had an ambulance in Alta Vista, New Hampton, Fredericksburg and Nashua. You don't get that today."
Doreen Cook used to run the Chickasaw Ambulance Service until about 10 years ago. She says issues she was dealing with a decade ago still continue today, including getting reimbursement.
"In the past, we've been hearing for the past several years, they're not getting reimbursed for the cost. And if you don't get reimbursed for the cost, what are you going to do? You're going to cut your service, you're going to cut your employees, and you're going to cut your service area."
Cheryl Haggerty is the Chief Nursing Officer at MercyOne New Hampton, and says issues surrounding the privitization of Medicaid have led patients to go elsewhere, especially when it comes to transfers for a service that would accept Medicaid.
"We have the potential to lose that patient for the hospital because they can go to Howard County. Why would they stop with us?"
The reduction in service has even put a strain on services, which are needed at a moment's notice, and can be costly.
"Eventually, you do get to a point where you say, 'alright. We can call a helicopter and it can be here in 10 minutes, or I can wait 40 minutes for an ambulance. What do you want to do?' And I shouldn't have to ask the patient that in that situation."
With state lawmakers also at today's forum, Haggerty hopes that they're getting the message for proper funding and change to the system.
"We're talking about making them an essential service. If they do that, they're taking money away from services like public health. That is insane, because you're going to cut services to those patients, so I think they really need to look at the patients and rural communities, and the Medicaid population."
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