• By Bridget Foster

Guest opinion: Celebrating Rural Hospital Week

It's Rural Hospital Week and Bluegrass Community Hospital is joining community hospitals and caregivers across the nation in highlighting the many ways we are making communities healthier - both inside and outside of our hospital walls. While rural communities are often considered "small towns," communities like ours are the backbone of America. Interestingly, if you add up the population of areas like ours across the country, it equals nearly 60 million people, or one in five Americans. At the heart of many of those communities is the local hospital. The most obvious benefit we provide is also our most vital: the delivery of high-quality patient care close to home for those we serve. Whether you need emergency treatment or have a scheduled, routine procedure, our goal is for you to have access to the care you need, when and where you need it. When seconds matter most, having essential healthcare just minutes away, instead of hours, can mean the difference between life and death. But the impact to a community extends far beyond our medical capabilities. In many rural areas, the hospital is the largest or second largest employer in the area and contributes to job creation throughout its community. A recent study by the American Medical Association found that "each physician supports almost 14 jobs and adds more than $2 million in economic input, on average." Those aren't just jobs in the hospital or doctor's office, they include restaurants, dry cleaners and daycares. In addition to job creation, our hospital is also a tax-paying entity, supporting important services, and provides an extensive amount of charity care to our community each year. To put it in perspective, in 2016 alone, our hospital paid nearly $90,780 in local taxes and provided more than $950,369 in charity care to our community. Rural hospitals like ours are making communities healthier every day - physically and fiscally. We are proud to serve the physical, mental, social and emotional well-being of our communities, and we are so honored that you continue to entrust us with your healthcare needs. So this week, as the nation celebrates Rural Hospital Week, we're joining our fellow community hospitals across the country and asking our communities to help us raise awareness of our impact nationwide. Help us spread the word to our friends and family in larger cities and our elected officials in Congress. How? It's easy. Just join the conversation on social media. Tell people how we are making communities healthier and then use #StandUp4RuralHospitals. By working together, small towns can have a big and lasting impact on the future of healthcare. Bridget Foster is director of the Physician Relations & Industry (PRI) Program, Business Development & Marketing, at Georgetown Community Hospital and Bluegrass Community Hospital.

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