By Ryan Kelly
I took a trip across rural Mississippi this weekend with my family – one of my favorite things to do!
We were driving through some country roads when I came across this metal barn in south central Lamar County. I grew curious when I saw this barn, “how far would it be to the nearest hospital?” With my one bar of cell service I searched the distance to the nearest facility. It was exactly 16 miles to either Merit Health Wesley or Marion General Hospital. Then I searched for the distance to the closest clinic…8.2 miles at Hattiesburg Clinic Bellevue location.
Driving back to Hattiesburg I timed the drive to that clinic. It took 16 minutes. So, if someone cut themselves on rusty barbed wire and needed a tetanus shot, or if they were bitten by a rattle snake, it would take them almost 30 minutes to reach a hospital or 16 minutes to reach a clinic. Such could be a dangerous proposition.
This is a very common example of the distance between medical providers in rural Mississippi. In many areas, the distance is much, much further.
This is why rural health is so important. Most Mississippians live in rural areas, and the distance to their nearest medical provider can be great. This is usually fine for normal procedures or visits, but for emergencies, it can be the difference in life and death.
So keep supporting rural health. For our providers, know that you are serving a population that needs you. For patients, trust in your providers that are here for you and use your local services. For insurers and lawmakers, know that your investment in rural health pays huge dividends in the lives of Mississippians. Together we will keep Mississippi’s health strong.