Ashton Marra Published

Forum: 'The State of Rural Healthcare'


West Virginia faces a multitude of challenges when it comes to providing healthcare to its citizens. Because of its rural nature, many citizens face a lack of access to healthcare facilities, healthful foods and places to exercise.

But a recent forum at West Virginia University uncovered problems even more complex, problems with recruitment, public education and cooperation between healthcare providers.

The forum, titled “The State of Rural Healthcare,” was hosted by WVU President Dr. Gordon Gee and Congressman David McKinley Monday in Morgantown. Nineteen physicians, nurses, rural health specialists, insurance representatives and other medical professionals participated in the panel discussion focused on defining the problems with rural healthcare.

The most talked about issues were transportation for patients to and from health facilities, public education on preventative health measures and ways to recruit healthcare professionals to rural parts of the state.

“I’ve had colleagues tell me I would consider primary care, but I can’t afford it,” Lisa Costello told the panel, a third year pediatric and internal care resident at WVU.

“When you have $200,000 of debt, you can’t afford sometimes to go and practice where you’re going to be compensated in that regard.”

Costello suggested lawmakers look at increasing the availability of federal loan forgiveness programs for professionals who choose to work in rural areas with more need.

Technology was also a major talking point for panelists. Vice President and CFO of Preston Memorial Hospital Robert Milvert said a many residents in his community don’t have access to broadband because internet providers say its not cost effective to provide the service to sparsely populated areas.

“When people do not have access to the internet, people don’t learn, people don’t communicate, people don’t become more health literate at the end of the day,” he said.

“We don’t communicate the way that we should between our care providers and our patients because we don’t have access to the internet.”

Milvert asked McKinley to take legislation to Washington requiring internet in all areas as a standard, just as the federal government did when passing legislation in 1935 requiring electricity be provided across the country.