Conference Addresses Rural Health

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The public has an opportunity to help improve Payson's health care services, said Rural Health Office Director Alison Hughes.

The Future of Rural Health Care in Arizona: A Payson Case Study is the topic of the opening session from 4:30 p.m. until 6 p.m. at Payson High School.

"We want the public's input," said Judy Baker, director of the Mogollon Health Alliance.

Portions of the three-day conference, beginning Sunday, July 17 will be open to the public.

Mayor Barbara Brewer, the Mogollon Health Alliance and Payson Regional Medical Center, among other organizations, will gather to discuss a plan to maximize Payson and other small communities' health care infrastructure.

"This would be strategic planning as to mental health care, long-term care, transportation issues, under insured -- what do people do who are under-insured or not insured for health care, the whole gambit," said Dr. Lynda Bergsma, director of University of Arizona's Rural Health Office.

Among the speakers featured Sunday night are Chris Wolf, chief executive officer of Payson Regional Medical Center, speaking on general health care; Harvey Pelovsky, administrator of Rim Country Health and Retirement Community, voicing concerns of the elderly; Executive Director of Rim Guidance, Jeff Grey discussing mental health issues; and Vicki Dietz, vice president of RTA Hospice & Palliative Care serving as a representative from community agencies.

Wolf, Pelovsky, Grey and Dietz will then open the floor for questions.

There will be a reception from 6 p.m. - 7 p.m.

The final hour of Sunday evening is a presentation of the Rural Health Works program. The program was developed in Oklahoma and is operating successfully in other states. Payson residents will be able to learn how the program works, the resources needed and technical assistance available to implement the program in the town of Payson.

"One of the big pieces of ensuring good health care in any community is being able to recruit and retain good people in your community," Bergsma said.

Monday's session at 6:30 p.m. looks at this personnel aspect -- once a community has decided what health care services it needs, how does it plan to attract and retain staffing to meet those health care needs.

The rural health office provides on-going technical support to achieve these goals.

According to Bergsma, the strategic planning committee would utilize 30 to 50 volunteers in the community, while the coordinator would be a paid, most likely half-time position.

Bergsma said committee members come from, "Banking, real estate, culture, health care, education, the faith community, tourism and retail... they come from every walk of life."

They would meet for one to two years, identifying the health care needs of the people in the community they represent.

"It is not a simple process but it is an exceedingly important process for a community to really run their health care and make sure that they are satisfying and meeting the needs of the community in an economically efficient way," Bergsma said.

One way of gathering this information is by holding town hall meetings with the committee, which then reports back to the Rural Health Care Office regarding the needs of the community.

"If one of those is a cardiac care unit, then they would do a feasibility study," Bergsma said. "Is a cardiac care unit going to pay for itself? You can't have something that isn't going to pay for itself. The community then has to decide how can it underwrite that bit of cost for that period of time or does it even want to. It's fine for a community to say we want five doctors, but if they can't support those doctors it is moot," Bergsma. said.

Three concurrent workshops will be held Tuesday, July 19 with two opportunities to attend at 1:30 p.m. and 2:45 p.m.. They are:

  • Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act: What it Means for You
  • Medical Flip-Flops in the Media: What the Health Can You Believe?
  • Healthy Aging: maintaining Your Good Health and Quality of Life

For more information, contact Rebecca Ruiz at (520) 626-7946 ext. 254 or visit the Rural Health Office website at www.rho.arizona.edu.

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