A Troubling Diagnosis: Series findings

As we look ahead to Sunday’s community forum, here’s a summary of this summer’s Rappahannock News-Foothills Forum series about healthcare in the county.

Part One: In Rappahannock, health care headaches for an aging community

Rappahannock’s seniors love this place and value privacy, but many know it can be a hard place to grow old.

Rappahannock ranks ahead of neighboring counties in key categories according to an annual health report. The county’s obesity rating is rising, though still below state and national levels. But Rappahannock rates poorly in access to medical services — no hospitals, three doctors (one is here one day a week) and a high rate of uninsured adults (18 percent) and children (11 percent). We are a medically underserved community.

Neighboring health care systems struggle to recruit doctors to the area.

The “No.1 underserved area:” Seniors struggling with mental health issues that deepen with isolation.

Part Two: As Rappahannock gets older, so do the volunteers who handle its medical emergencies

We are the last county in Virginia entirely dependent on volunteer fire and rescue crews. Those admirable — and aging — crews serve an aging population with rising expectations. The best-qualified squad members carry a disproportionate load in answering calls. Local chiefs say service and response times aren’t issues even with their older crews. A far greater threat is a major fire.

RappU offers a hybrid course for basic EMT certification, but the initial response failed to fill available slots.

Supervisors acknowledge that professionalizing the EMT cadre is an issue with real implications for taxpayers and for the still-committed volunteers.

Part Three: Rappahannock’s community organizes to confront an uncertain future

Local organizations – The Food Pantry, Rapp at Home, Aging Together, RCPS’s Commit to Be Fit, RappU, The Benevolent Fund, other nonprofits, foundations, churches and volunteer groups – are loosely organizing to deal with the county’s health challenges. Chief among them: Getting patients to medical services.

Due to the shortage of medical professionals and facilities, many health care experts believe telemedicine will need to become a core component of rural health care. That is highly dependent on comprehensive, reliable broadband service, which remains in short supply in the county.

A growing fear is that in five to 10 years, a lot more county residents will need help to stay physically and mentally healthy and get medical care, but there will be far fewer people to help them.

So far Rappahannock has been spared the worst of the national – and nearby – opioid crisis.

Read the entire series at rappnews.com/a-troubling-diagnosis

Community forum this Sunday

Rural Health Care: What’s Next?

Join us at 2 p.m. this Sunday (Oct. 8) at the Washington Fire Hall for a get-together with the Rappahannock News, Foothills Forum, Aging Together and Rapp at Home to discuss and assess the findings of “A Troubling Diagnosis,” the recent three-part explanatory journalism series published in The News. Researcher/reporter Randy Rieland, your neighbors and the partnering nonprofits will open up this effort to give every voice a seat at the table. Local officials, experts and residents quoted in the series have been invited.

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