Sometimes, I kinda forget that I live in a rural area. My 307-person town feels like home to me now, and it doesn’t occur to me very often that I have fewer services near me than I did when I lived in the city. But sometimes I run into something that reminds me I live in a small town…like when my baby has to see a doctor.
I don’t live so far out in the boonies that we don’t have doctors or paramedics available. We do have a few EMTs that live right here in our town and it’s only a short 30-minute drive to a small hospital. But, our medical services are different than those you might find in a big city.
First, we have doctors who seem to care a bit more about their patients. Perhaps its because the area is small enough that no one is truly anonymous. When you see your patients at church or the grocery store or the local high school football game, I imagine it’s a little easier to see them as human beings and less like an interesting science puzzle.
Second, we have traveling doctors. Sounds like something out of the old west with its traveling preachers, hmm? Well, when I need to see a specialist without driving three hours to Denver, I’m thankful for the traveling docs. Since our local hospital can’t keep a cardiologist, endocrinologist, urologist or other fancy doctor on staff with our small population, they have agreements with specialists who travel to the hospital about one day a month to see patients here. Yes, my choices are limited but I don’t have to waste an entire day traveling to a 20-minute appointment.
Third, medical care isn’t necessarily cheaper. I imagine our doctors get paid less than doctors in the big city, though I have absolutely no evidence that is true. I base that assumption on the fees they charge, which seem to be much less than city doctors I’ve been to. (For example, when the little guy was due for his one-month checkup, we took him to a local doctor and we weren’t sure whether our insurance would cover the visit. The cash price for his checkup? $60.)
But, when the specialists can’t travel to us, we have to travel to them. And that’s where the expense comes in. We recently had to travel to a nearby city (two hours away) for Eli to have some minor surgery. In total, a four-hour drive, meals away from home, getting up at 3 a.m. to be there in time for surgery…not too pleasant and a little bit pricey. And, no, insurance doesn’t help pay for travel costs.
So there it is: rural health care. Honestly, I think it’s pretty great. Eli seems to think so, too, since he got his own personal TV to watch while he was in the hospital and a train book to take home, thanks to some hospital volunteers.
And on the days when I don’t think it’s great, all I have to do is remember military health care. Somehow, I don’t think my local hospital would leave me standing in their waiting room bleeding while they made me call an appointment line to make an appointment for emergency treatment. (True story.)