Rural Medicine

What Will It Take to Boost Vaccinations? The Scene From Kentucky’s Back Roads

SMILAX, Ky. — In the end it was the delta variant that drove Rose Mitchell, 89, down the winding mountain road to the Full Gospel Church of Jesus Christ to get the shot. Her pastor, Billy Joe Lewis, had told his congregation that, No, ma’am, a covid vaccine would not leave the “mark of the …

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Journalists Tell How Covid Complicates Organ Transplants and the Health of Rural America

KHN senior correspondent JoNel Aleccia discussed organ transplants and the covid-19 vaccine on NBC’s “NBC Now” on Oct. 8. Click here to watch Aleccia on “NBC Now“ Read Aleccia’s “Organ Centers to Transplant Patients: Get a Covid Shot or Move Down on Waitlist“ KHN Midwest correspondent Lauren Weber discussed covid deaths in rural America on …

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Journalists Examine Vaccination Rates Among Student Nurses and in Covid Hot Spots

Contributing writer and former KHN correspondent Michelle Andrews discussed difficulties in providing clinical training to student nurses who refuse to get vaccinated on CBS News on Thursday. Click here to watch Andrews on CBS News Read Andrews’ “Student Nurses Who Refuse Vaccination Struggle to Complete Degrees“ KHN Colorado correspondent Rae Ellen Bichell discussed San Juan …

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Covid Is Killing Rural Americans at Twice the Rate of Urbanites

Rural Americans are dying of covid at more than twice the rate of their urban counterparts — a divide that health experts say is likely to widen as access to medical care shrinks for a population that tends to be older, sicker, heavier, poorer and less vaccinated. While the initial surge of covid-19 deaths skipped …

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Delta Cutting ‘Like a Buzzsaw’ Through Oregon-California Border Counties

If you live in one of the rural communities tucked into the forested hillsides along the Oregon-California border and need serious medical care, you’ll probably wind up at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center. It serves about nine counties on either side of the border.   It is one of three hospitals Asante owns in the region. …

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To Stoke Rural Vaccination Rates, Trusted Farmers Are Asked to Spread Word

When he became eligible for the coronavirus vaccine in Illinois, Tom Arnold, 68, said he didn’t need any convincing. He raises cattle, hogs and chickens in Elizabeth, a small town in the state’s northwestern corner. After all, who better to understand why herd immunity matters than a herdsman? “Being a livestock producer, I’m well aware …

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In Rural America, Twisting Arms to Take a Covid Vaccine First Takes Trust

CAIRO, Ill. — Lee Wright was hard at work, constructing a nail salon near the city’s abandoned hospital, when Jody Johnson stopped by to introduce himself on a recent afternoon. Johnson, who works for the University of Illinois Extension program, chatted with Wright casually in the summertime heat. For Johnson, it was the first step …

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Journalists’ Topics Range From Rural Pharmacy Deserts to Opioid Overdoses

KHN senior Colorado correspondent Markian Hawryluk discussed how a rural Colorado town is crowdsourcing ways to get prescription medicines delivered on KUNC’s “Colorado Edition” on Monday. Click here to hear Hawryluk on KUNC Read Hawryluk’s “How One Rural Town Without a Pharmacy Is Crowdsourcing to Get Meds“ KHN Editor-in-Chief Elisabeth Rosenthal discussed how medical education …

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California’s Highest Covid Infection Rates Shift to Rural Counties

Most of us are familiar with the good news: In recent weeks, rates of covid-19 infection and death have plummeted in California, falling to levels not seen since the early days of the pandemic. The average number of new covid infections reported each day dropped by an astounding 98% from December to June, according to …

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Rural Ambulance Services Are in Jeopardy as Volunteers Age and Expenses Mount

DUTTON, Mont. — Vern Greyn was standing in the raised bucket of a tractor, trimming dead branches off a tree, when he lost his balance. He fell 12 feet and struck his head on the concrete patio outside his house in this small farming town on the central Montana plains. Greyn, then 58, couldn’t move. …

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With Roots in Civil Rights, Community Health Centers Push for Equity in the Pandemic

In the 1960s, health care across the Mississippi Delta was sparse and much of it was segregated. Some hospitals were dedicated to Black patients, but they often struggled to stay afloat. At the height of the civil rights movement, young Black doctors launched a movement of their own to address the care disparity. This story …

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What the Slowing Vaccine Rates Mean for One Rural Montana County

KALISPELL, Mont. — The covid vaccination operation at the Flathead County fairgrounds can dole out 1,000 doses in seven hours. But demand has plummeted recently, down to fewer than 70 requests for the shots a day. This story also ran on NPR. It can be republished for free. So, at the start of May, the …

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Riding Herd on Mental Health in Colorado Ranching Country

[Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is in a crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. In Colorado, you can also contact Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255.] KIOWA, Colo. — The yellow-and-green …

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In Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta, Millions Face Long Drives to Stroke Care

Debbie Cook was in her pajamas on a summer morning in 2019 when she got a call from her son: “Something bad is wrong with Granny.” This story also ran on Investigate TV. It can be republished for free. The fear in his voice told Cook it was serious. She dialed 911 immediately, knowing it …

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En los Apalaches y el delta del Mississippi, millones deben viajar lejos para recibir atención por accidentes cerebrovasculares

Una mañana de verano en 2019, Debbie Cook estaba todavía en pijamas cuando recibió una llamada de su hijo: “Algo malo le pasa a la abuela”. This story also ran on Investigate TV. It can be republished for free. Por el miedo en la voz de su hijo supo que se trataba de algo serio. …

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‘It Didn’t Really Stick With Me’: Understanding the Rural Shrug Over Covid and Vaccines

At 70, Linda Findley has long been active in her small town of Fort Scott, Kansas, which sits more than an hour away from any major city. Findley, whose husband died in an accident just after the local hospital closed, helps with the Elks and fundraising, and — like many people in this part of …

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Rural Americans in Pharmacy Deserts Hurting for Covid Vaccines

This story also ran on CNN. It can be republished for free. As the Biden administration accelerates a plan to use pharmacies to distribute covid-19 vaccines, significant areas of the country lack brick-and-mortar pharmacies capable of administering the protective shots. A recent analysis by the Rural Policy Research Institute found that 111 rural counties, mostly …

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To Vaccinate Veterans, Health Care Workers Must Cross Mountains, Plains and Tundra

This story also ran on Time. It can be republished for free. A Learjet 31 took off before daybreak from Helena Regional Airport in Montana, carrying six Veterans Affairs medical providers and 250 doses of historic cargo cradled in a plug-in cooler designed to minimize breakage. Even in a state where 80-mph speed limits are …

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Rural Hospital Remains Entrenched in Covid ‘War’ Even Amid Vaccine Rollout

Editor’s note: KHN wrote about St. James Parish Hospital in April, when it was experiencing its first surge of covid-19 patients. Ten months later, we checked in to see how the hospital and its staff were faring. This story also ran on The Guardian. It can be republished for free. The “heroes work here” sign …

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Journalists Explore Inefficiency and Inequities of Vaccine Rollout

KHN Midwest correspondent Lauren Weber spoke about the covid-19 vaccine rollout for WAMU’s “1A” on Jan. 29. Click here to hear Weber on WAMU KHN social media manager Chaseedaw Giles discussed racial disparities in covid vaccine distribution with NBC LX News on Feb. 3. Click here to watch Giles on NBC LX Read “As Vaccine …

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California’s Rural Counties Endure a Deadly Covid Winter

Covid-19’s fierce winter resurgence in California is notable not only for the explosion in overall cases and deaths in the state’s sprawling urban centers. This latest surge spilled across a far greater geographic footprint, scarring remote corners of the state that went largely unscathed for much of 2020. Use Our Content It can be republished …

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4 Vital Health Issues — Not Tied to Covid — That Congress Addressed in Massive Spending Bill

This story also ran on NPR. It can be republished for free. Late last month, before President Joe Biden took office and proposed his pandemic relief plan, Congress passed a nearly 5,600-page legislative package that provided some pandemic relief along with its more general allocations to fund the government in 2021. While the $900 billion that lawmakers included for …

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In Los Angeles and Beyond, Oxygen Is the Latest Covid Bottleneck

As Los Angeles hospitals give record numbers of covid patients oxygen, the systems and equipment needed to deliver the life-sustaining gas are faltering. It’s gotten so bad that Los Angeles County officials are warning paramedics to conserve it. Some hospitals are having to delay releasing patients as they don’t have enough oxygen equipment to send …

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Health Officials Fear Pandemic-Related Suicide Spike Among Native Youth

WOLF POINT, Mont. — Fallen pine cones covered 16-year-old Leslie Keiser’s fresh grave at the edge of Wolf Point, a small community on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation on the eastern Montana plains. Leslie, whose father is a member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes, is one of at least two teenagers on …

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Inside the First Chaotic Days of the Effort to Vaccinate America

One tray of COVID-19 vaccine from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer contains 975 doses — way too many for a rural hospital in Arkansas. But with the logistical gymnastics required to safely get the Pfizer vaccine to rural health care workers, splitting the trays into smaller shipments has its own dangers. Once out of the freezer that …

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What Happened When the Only ER Doctor in a Rural Town Got COVID

Kurt Papenfus, a doctor in Cheyenne Wells, Colorado, started to feel sick around Halloween. He developed a scary cough, intestinal symptoms and a headache. In the midst of a pandemic, the news that he had COVID-19 wasn’t surprising, but Papenfus’ illness would have repercussions far beyond his own health. Papenfus is the lone full-time emergency …

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Rural Areas Send Their Sickest Patients to Cities, Straining Hospitals

Registered nurse Pascaline Muhindura has spent the past eight months treating COVID patients at Research Medical Center in Kansas City, Missouri. But when she returns home to her small town of Spring Hill, Kansas, she’s often stunned by what she sees, like on a recent stop for carryout food. “No one in the entire restaurant was …

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Need a COVID-19 Nurse? That’ll Be $8,000 a Week

DENVER — In March, Claire Tripeny was watching her dream job fall apart. She’d been working as an intensive care nurse at St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood, Colorado, and loved it, despite the mediocre pay typical for the region. But when COVID-19 hit, that calculation changed. She remembers her employers telling her and her colleagues …

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KHN on the Air This Week

KHN Editor-in-Chief Elisabeth Rosenthal discussed how to manage unexpected health care costs with CBSN on Wednesday. Click here to watch Rosenthal on CBSN KHN chief Washington correspondent Julie Rovner discussed the Affordable Care Act case before the Supreme Court with WBEZ’s “Reset” and WDET’s “Detroit Today” on Tuesday and with WHYY’s “Radio Times” on Wednesday. …

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Listen: COVID Stresses Rural Hospitals Already ‘Teetering on the Brink’

When KHN Editor-in-Chief Elisabeth Rosenthal heard a sample of the voices that correspondent Sarah Jane Tribble brought back from her reporting trip to rural Kansas, Rosenthal said she knew the story needed to be told through audio. That’s the genesis for “No Mercy,” season one of the podcast “Where It Hurts.” The series documents the …

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‘No Mercy’ Chapter 7: After a Rural Town Loses Hospital, Is a Health Clinic Enough?

Can’t see the audio player? Click here to listen. Family physician Maxwell Self is doing his same old job for a new employer. For two decades he was a doctor with Mercy Hospital. But when Mercy packed up and left, a federally qualified health center moved to town — into the hospital building itself — and …

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‘Is This Worth My Life?’: Traveling Health Workers Decry COVID Care Conditions

This story also ran on The Guardian. It can be republished for free. David Joel Perea called from Maine, Vermont, Minnesota and, ultimately, Nevada, always with the same request: “Mom, can you send tamales?” Dominga Perea would ship them overnight. That’s how she knew where her 35-year-old son was. The traveling nurse had “a tremendous …

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‘No Mercy’ Chapter 6: Trickle-Down Heartache Reaches the Next Generation in a Rural Town With No Hospital

Can’t see the audio player? Click here to listen. Josh is 17. He said he smokes marijuana. He struggles with anger. He’s also juggling some extraordinary responsibilities for a teenager. Josh’s mother died of a drug overdose when he was 3 years old and he has lived with his grandparents ever since. When his grandfather’s heart …

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KHN on the Air This Week

KHN chief Washington correspondent Julie Rovner discussed the current surge in COVID-19 cases, health policy in the election and the Affordable Care Act case before the Supreme Court with NPR’s “All Things Considered” on Sunday and WBUR’s “On Point.” Click here to hear Rovner on NPR Click here to hear Rovner on WBUR Listen to …

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‘No Mercy’ Chapter 5: In Rural America, Cancer Care Is Often Far From Home

Can’t see the audio player? Click here to listen. Sixty-five-year-old Karen Endicott-Coyan is living with a blood cancer.  Her chemotherapy takes less than 30 minutes. Before the hospital closed, it was just a short drive into the small town of Fort Scott, Kansas, for her to get treatment. But these days getting to chemo means a …

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‘No Mercy’ Chapter 4: So, 2 Nuns Step Off a Train in Kansas … A Hospital’s Origin Story

Can’t see the audio player? Click here to listen. Ever since Mercy Hospital went “corporate,” things just haven’t been the same — that’s what lots of locals in Fort Scott, Kansas, said when the Mercy health system shuttered the only hospital in town. It’s been years since Catholic nuns led Mercy Hospital Fort Scott, but town …

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‘No Mercy’ Chapter 2: Unimaginable, After a Century, That Their Hospital Would Close

Can’t see the audio player? Click here to listen. Closing a hospital hurts. In Fort Scott, Kansas, no one was a bigger symbol for that loss — or bigger target for the town’s anger — than hospital president Reta Baker. Baker was at the helm when the hospital doors closed. “I don’t even like going out …

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Prognosis for Rural Hospitals Worsens With Pandemic

Jerome Antone said he is one of the lucky ones. After becoming ill with COVID-19, Antone was hospitalized only 65 miles away from his small Alabama town. He is the mayor of Georgiana — population 1,700. “It hit our rural community so rabid,” Antone said. The town’s hospital closed last year. If hospitals in nearby …

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GOP Senate Ad Misrepresents Mont. Governor’s Stance on Rural Hospitals, Public Option

An attack ad, which was released in mid-July, states that Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democratic candidate for the Senate, supports a government-run health care program that would wreak havoc on the state’s health care infrastructure. “Bullock’s health care plan will force rural hospitals to close. Medicare as we know it will change, replaced by …

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Trabajadores agrícolas en alto riesgo de contraer coronavirus y sin protección federal

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee.- Es una época de mucho trabajo para las granjas productoras de tomate en esta parte del estado. Estas plantaciones cuentan con cientos de trabajadores, la mayoría latinos. Algunos viven allí. Otros son migrantes que viajan de granja en granja, para recoger las cosechas de verano. Otros vienen de México o Centroamérica con visas …

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As Crisis Grows, Farms Try to Balance Health of Field Workers and Food Supply

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It’s a busy time for the tomato-producing farms in this part of the state. Farms have staffed up with hundreds of workers, most of whom are Latino. Some live locally. Others are migrant workers who travel from farm to farm, chasing the summer growing seasons. Still others come from Mexico or Central …

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In Rural Missouri, Latinos Learn to Contain and Cope With the Coronavirus

Francisco Bonilla is a pastor in Carthage, Missouri, tending to the spiritual needs of the town’s growing Latino community. He’s also a media personality, broadcasting his voice far beyond the walls of Casa de Sanidad. Bonilla runs a low-power, Spanish-language radio station from the church. He mainly uses the station to broadcast sermons and religious …

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KHN’s ‘What the Health?’: Still Waiting for That Trump Health Plan

Can’t see the audio player? Click here to listen on SoundCloud. President Donald Trump keeps promising to unveil a comprehensive plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, but it keeps not appearing. However, this week he did order an expansion of telehealth for Medicare beneficiaries and a program to help struggling rural hospitals. Meanwhile, the administration …

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