Wish List for 2011: A Healthy Rooks County

January 22, 2011 | News | By: Blair Wendlandt

With the winter holidays come and gone, it is easy to consider “wish lists” a thing of the recent past.  Whether the object of desire is a new bike, a tropical vacation, or the newest and smallest electronic gadget, many of us spend December counting down the days and hoping that, come Christmas, we will awaken to find that perfect gift waiting under the tree.   Now that the stockings have been taken down and the decorations packed away for another year, most of us won’t give a second thought to making a wish list for another ten months or so.  But not everybody in Rooks County has stopped wishing.

Participants of the Rooks County Needs Assessment Meeting (Jan 14, 2011)

On Friday, January 14th, members of the Rooks County healthcare community gathered to discuss the state of local health care and put together a list of needs and goals for the future.  The meeting, which was held in Plainville at the Nazarene Church, included local health care providers (physicians and physician assistants, nurses, optometrists, and dentists), employees of High Plains Mental Health and the Rooks County Health Department, and representatives of various local businesses and churches.

The afternoon began with a luncheon during which attendees had the opportunity to introduce themselves and get to know each other.  Following an overview of up-and-coming federal healthcare legislation, the discussion shifted to the challenges facing healthcare delivery in Rooks County, which include the county’s rural location, sparse population density, and recent rise in unemployed and uninsured citizens.  Once these challenges were identified, there were then two prevailing questions to guide further discussion: “What do we have?” and “What do we want?”  As those in attendance set out to create a list of “haves,” it soon became clear that Rooks County does indeed boast a great number of strengths when it comes to the delivery of healthcare.  The newly-constructed Rooks County Health Center offers outpatient, emergency room, and hospital services all in one easily accessible, state-of-the-art facility.  In addition to the medical services housed at RCHC there are also dental, optometry, and chiropractic services available within the county, which is uncommon in this part of the state.  A wide variety of support services operate locally – ranging from the  Head Start and KidLink educational programs for young children to the assisted living facility and two local nursing homes for the aging population – to meet the needs of Rooks County residents across the lifespan.  And so with the “What do we have?” question answered, it was time to ask “What do we want?”  In other words, it was time to create the wish list.

As the group worked to make a list of desired additions to the Rooks County healthcare network, a few needs stood out above the others.  One ever-present need – for more primary care practitioners in the area – will be at least partially fulfilled this September when two new physicians open their practices in Stockton (Drs. Beth Loney and Mike Oller, who are currently finishing up residency training at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita).  Broadened local access to mental health and substance abuse treatment services was also identified as a necessity.  And because these developments would be essentially meaningless if the residents of Rooks County were not aware of them, increased resource sharing among healthcare providers and the creation of tools to disseminate information among patients (like this website, for example!) were lastly identified as top priorities.  Following the conclusion of the meeting a list of contact information and an outline of the topics discussed were sent to those in attendance, and efforts to get the aforementioned resource lists implemented are already underway.  Although the items on this particular wish list may not have been requested in time for the 2010 Christmas holiday, they promise to be the gifts that keep on giving for many years to come.