Rural health care discussion exposes challenges

A ‘10 percent’ solution could help alleviate problems

A discussion of Rural Healthcare: What’s Next? drew more than three dozen people from across the county to the Washington Fire House last Sunday afternoon, spurring ideas for finding solutions to a range of healthcare issues experienced by local and regional residents.

The event was convened to discuss and assess the findings of “A Troubling Diagnosis,” the recent three-part explanatory journalism series published in the Rappahannock News. Nationally recognized researcher and reporter Randy Rieland wrote the series and keynoted the event.

Co-sponsored by the Rappahannock News, Foothills Forum, Rapp at Home, and Aging Together, the event was attended by members of the county’s fire and rescue organizations, the free clinic, the county schools, area nonprofits, and businesses with an interest in health care, among others.

In her opening remarks, discussion moderator Beverly Jones said: “The focus of the discussion is very much local, but is within the framework of the series. And a great chance to expand a record, correct a record, if there are other issues that weren’t raised in the series but should be on the table.”

Rieland, who also wrote two previous series for the Rappahannock News — one on broadband accessibility, the other on the county’s comprehensive plan — told the crowd that while he was working on the broadband series, the issue of healthcare kept coming up.

“The challenges that exist in Rappahannock County are really universal in the U.S.,” he said, including attracting doctors to rural areas, the lack of reliable transportation, the availability of mental health resources, the aging of volunteer fire and rescue personnel, and a growing drug abuse problem.

Early on in the discussion, Matthew Black, who volunteers for the Sperryville Volunteer Fire Department, suggested that the magnitude of the combined challenges is too overwhelming to tackle. Instead, he said: “If we could make a 10 percent shift in the number of healthcare events [in the county], it may not fix everything,” but it would make a difference.

Black’s “10 percent solution” became the theme of the discussion going forward.

Todd Summers, a Sperryville volunteer ambulance driver, weighed in: “We need a plan for a plan to get to that 10 percent.”

But any plan has to be owned by the county, he pointed out, rather than relying on outside foundations and other organizations.

Later, when Jones asked Summers where interested citizens could reach him to further discuss the plan, he answered: “Call 911.”

Soon, however, there could be an opportunity for county leaders and the volunteer fire and rescue companies to discuss if not propose such a plan. A new agreement between the Rappahannock government and the county’s volunteer fire companies is to be discussed today [Thursday] at a special meeting of the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors, and a draft of the agreement spells out that the two will maintain regular dialogue on pressing issues affecting the county’s residents.

An unedited video of the Oct. 8 meeting can be found online at, or on the newspaper’s YouTube channel at

About Patty Hardee 283 Articles
Writer, consultant, actor, director, recovering stand-up comic, Patty covers the county’s courts and other topics of interest for Rappahannock News. She lives with her grape-growing husband Bill Freitag in Flint Hill.