Friday Forum: Rural Healthcare in Oregon

Last week’s Friday Forum was an illuminating discussion on the topic of Rural Healthcare in Oregon. Hosted by City Club, XRAY.FM is now broadcasting the Friday Forum live every Friday and we will be posting audio of these discussions weekly.

Rural communities are typically older, sicker, and poorer than urban ones. Yet, there are fewer health care providers in those communities—in fact, many counties don’t have a single doctor.

On Friday, November 17, Dr. Bruce Goldberg and Dr. Liz Powers sat down with Serena Cruz of the Virginia Garcia Memorial Foundation to tackle the subject. Dr. Powers, who lives and practices in Enterprise, Oregon, still makes house calls, sometimes driving 60 miles to see a patient. “I take care of my patients wherever they need me,” she said.

While recognizing how rewarding it is to live in communities where you’re an integral part of people’s lives, Powers and Goldberg also discussed burnout and the overall challenge of keeping doctors in struggling rural communities.

Much of the discussion centered on issues that are universal challenges in our healthcare system. Dr. Powers described a system where there are too many insurers and too much is spent sorting out the differences in what is covered and what isn’t. She said her office bills more than 130 different providers, each with their own unique requirements.

“If not single payer, can we at least have single payment?” Dr. Powers said.

Dr. Goldberg pointed out that, while not having health care is a problem, the bigger issue might be social factors.

“Studies show that many of the social factors are probably better predictors of our health than our access to medical care,” he said. “So when we look at policy solutions for healthier communities they aren’t just, ‘Let’s throw more health care providers at communities.'”

The conversation touched on a wide range of topics and ideas. Listen to the entire discussion here or watch on YouTube.