Rural Health Care

Edgar's picture

Prairie Doc

The elderly patient came back to our rural hospital from a hospital in a nearby larger city after having had major surgery and feeding-tube placement. The care from the bigger hospital was superb except that the patient was getting too much nutrient and fluids and was a bit “overloaded.” Also, the family was concerned that perhaps they had been too aggressive in getting stressful surgery for their elderly mom, whose memory had begun to slip. As her physician, I cut back on the feeding-tube supplements, stopped the intravenous fluids, provided a little diuretic and did labs and X-ray for dementia. I took plenty of time with family and patient learning about their wishes should our patient again deteriorate. All agreed to emphasize comfort from here on out, and if she started to fail, we would do our best in her home hospital and not transfer her care again.

I had been that patient’s primary care doc for years. Practicing outpatient and inpatient care in a smaller town gave me the experience to see what was happening. The patient and family knew me, trusted me and appreciated the time I spent listening to her. Quality care reviewers, government oversight people and insurance companies also know the value of a well-trained rural primary care provider who not only understands how to care for complex patients, but also, knows when and where to refer when specialized care is needed. In fact, experts believe an ideal system would define a primary care provider for every person.



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