Northland Panel on Health Care Focuses on Rural Access

Posted at: 02/15/2013 5:37 PM
Updated at: 02/15/2013 11:05 PM
By: Maarja Anderson

Minnesota Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson and Lt. Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon traveled north Friday to attend a local panel on health care.

They joined five Northland health leaders, including representatives from UMD, Essentia Health, St. Luke's, and the Range Mental Health Center. Comm. Jesson asked for reactions to Governor Dayton's budget proposal and for additional ideas to strengthen the state's health care infrastructure.

"What's missing? What should we be thinking about, whether it's in this budget or in other budgets?" asked Comm. Jesson.

Gov. Dayton's budget would implement the "Affordable Care Act," which adds nearly 150,000 more people covered under Medicaid. To meet those needs, health providers said the workforce needs to grow.

"We have to meet the the needs right now," said Jayme Collins of the Range Mental Health Center. "It would really be a sorry irony if people have the means to get our services and cannot get them."

That's especially true in rural areas, where they already have provider shortages. Comm. Jesson said the panel centered the discussion around medical accessibility in rural areas.

"We need more family doctors, we need them in rural Minnesota, and we need to spend the money to train them and keep them in Minnesota, I heard that loud and clear," said Comm. Jesson.

The UMD Medical School focuses on training family or primary physicians that will work in rural areas. Dr. Ray Christensen said family doctors are ideal for those areas because they do a little bit of everything.

"Family docs can set bones, they deliver babies, they take care of pediatrics, they take care of boys and girls, and men and women, and old and young. That's pretty broad," said Dr. Christensen.

The panel also discussed supporting pharmacists and mental health professionals, and continuing to reform efforts to promote quality over quantity in health care with incentives.