Springfield-area health care is among the strongest in Illinois but not everyone has access

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Illinois State Sen. Doris Turner

For more than eight decades, my family has lived in Springfield. I love this community and consider my role as a public servant and elected official one of the greatest honors I’ve experienced. Each day, I strive to improve the lives – and the health – of the people I serve and to strengthen the communities where my family, friends, neighbors, and the people I represent live, work, and play.

One of the critical components of a strong community is access to high-quality health care. While we are fortunate to have a strong health care system, not everyone in the communities I represent can access it as easily as they might want. Still, many obstacles stand in the way of the timely use of effective health services. Such barriers require realistic understanding with a commonsense approach.

One of our region’s greatest assets is our health care infrastructure. While some communities have seen their access to care deteriorate, we are incredibly fortunate to live in an area with some of the best health care systems, facilities, and providers in the region and the state. For generations, our hospitals and clinics have served the people of Springfield and central Illinois with convenient, local access to high-quality primary, preventive, and specialty care, including innovative, cutting-edge medical therapies and technologies. Despite the pressures and economic impact of COVID-19, our health care organizations and essential workforce never stopped providing care for our community.

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Our regional health care infrastructure provides tens of thousands of jobs in the region, generates hundreds of millions of dollars in local tax revenue, and serves more than one million individuals and families across central Illinois. Our robust and diverse health care infrastructure means we don’t need to travel to Chicago or St. Louis for high-quality care or the many follow-ups that treating a chronic condition may require.

However, the strength and stability of that infrastructure wasn’t built overnight, nor was it created by accident. Each organization functions, operates and provides exceptional care and services focusing on quality, value, and efficiency to compete against larger systems in Chicago and elsewhere.

Nonetheless, not everyone can easily access such high-quality health care infrastructure. A recent Southern Illinois University report on rural health indicated that individuals and families living in rural counties face more barriers to providers and care. As a result, they also suffer from worse health outcomes and experience higher mortality rates when compared to those who live in urban counties. In addition, rural counties have nearly half as many physicians as urban counties, and it is becoming harder to recruit and retain an adequate number of health care professionals in many rural communities. The report recommended that we take steps to increase investment in our health care workforce, strengthen public-private health care collaboratives and partnerships, and augment our health technology infrastructure to address and overcome these barriers.

Luckily, health care organizations based in Springfield and Decatur have expanded their service area to include numerous rural communities throughout the region. They offer primary and specialty care services and some doctors drive from town to town to see their patients. These innovative approaches improve patient access to timely and appropriate care and help preserve critical community hospitals, clinics, and providers.

Yet, we must not ignore the challenges patients and providers face. We must collectively take steps to protect, improve and expand our locally owned and operated health care organizations. Doing so will enhance the quality of life, health, and well-being of the people in central Illinois.

Additionally, I will work with hospitals and providers this next legislative session to strengthen our local health care workforce. It is my goal to introduce legislation that addresses our shortfalls in clinical care, advances efforts toward recruitment and retention and ensures that we are better prepared for future public health emergencies, natural disasters, or downturns in the economy.

Together, we can leverage the diversity and strength of our region’s health care infrastructure to address these issues and stave off the health care challenges, pressures, and problems confronting far too many communities across the state.

Democrat Doris Turner represents the 48th district in the Illinois State Senate.

via The State Journal-Register

December 16, 2021 at 06:48AM

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