AS SEEN IN THE WEST CENTRAL TRIBUNE, 12/28/2016
By Mike Schramm — Cost, access and quality are some of the many critical factors that families face when making personal health care decisions. For nearly 80 years, Rice Memorial Hospital has helped families navigate their health care decisions by providing high quality care close to home. Our dedicated employees, care teams and medical staff strive to fulfill our mission every day – restoring and promoting the health and well-being of residents and communities of west central Minnesota.
Ensuring the residents of Willmar and west central Minnesota have reliable, affordable care is not an easy feat. Only four years ago, Rice Memorial needed to reduce the number of our employees when a drop in the number of patients pushed our financial situation into the red. Today, Rice Memorial is financially healthy because of the support of the residents of Willmar, prudent decisions made by the hospital’s board of directors and implementation of effective, efficient processes by hospital staff. However, as everyone who reads this knows, the delivery of health care continues to face significant changes that impact the health of patients and communities.
Like many rural communities, our population is aging. By 2030, Kandiyohi County is expected to have more residents over the age of 65 than children under the age of 18. As the population ages, the amount of care and the cost of that care steadily increases.
The changing demographics will impact Rice Memorial’s workforce. Like the general population, hospital staff and local physicians are aging, with more than 40 percent of primary care physicians and 67 percent of specialists who office in Willmar over the age of 50. Many of our nurses, hospital staff, local physicians and specialists will likely retire in the next 10-15 years, exacerbating an already challenging situation of trying to recruit and retain young, talented physicians and healthcare professionals in the region.
We value and appreciate the physician groups with whom we have worked closely to ensure high quality care is available to our patients. ACMC Health, Family Practice Medical Center, MN Pathologists Chartered, Suburban Radiology, Heartland Orthopedics and many other area physicians working collaboratively with Rice Memorial Hospital will ensure the delivery of high quality care for the future. Access to specialty care services and the latest technology for physicians are necessary for healthcare today. Gone is the time when one physician could provide comprehensive services to all family members throughout their lives. Rice Memorial supports the delivery of specialty care in our community because it keeps patients close to home when they face the need for these services.
To continue to provide high quality health care and meet the needs of our patients, Rice Memorial must keep evolving to ensure that it is positioned to continue to play a key role in the region’s health care. This means that we must address the challenges we have identified: changing demographics; a growing demand for access to specialty care; an aging population and health care workforce; and a need for additional investments in technology to help physicians provide top-level care.
As the New Year approaches, the team at Rice Memorial is committed to insuring our hospital will remain a regional comprehensive health care hub with stronger partnerships with our local physicians to address the challenges of delivering affordable, high quality health care in rural communities. This partnership can only happen with the support of our patients and surrounding communities. With your support, the future looks bright in 2017 and beyond.