Dengler Domain: Medical Care

One of my favorite times of harvest is being in Tama County. Traveling through Traer and Dysart, I am flooded with wonderful memories. Unfortunately, a recent experience saddened me about the state of rural Iowa. Late one night, I noticed my right eye was very red. It was pink eye which I get from time to time. While it was a mild case of it, I still wanted antibiotics. On a Friday, I called the Traer clinic – no appointment. I called the Dysart clinic – they are not open on Fridays. I called Urgent Care in Waterloo for an appointment – I was on hold for 20 minutes and eventually gave up. I called back 30 minutes later to be on hold for 10 minutes to which I again gave up. Fortunately, I got to Urgent Care and was in and out within 30 minutes ready to go pick up my prescription at Walgreens.

This minor annoyance is sad. Not because it affected me too much, but because there are plenty of people in worse condition who travel so far from rural Iowa to receive the care they need. Unfortunately, rural America is on the path of less medical care and citizens traveling farther for it than they do for education, work, or food. According to the American Hospital Association, from 2010 to 2021, 136 rural hospitals closed and a record 19 closures happened in 2020.

In Urbandale, where I reside for most of the year, my doctor’s office with a total of five doctors is five minutes away. Hopefully, this never happens, but if this office was not available, there is another one at least 10 minutes away. This is not about bragging about medical care in the city. Population dictates why there are more doctors, but it is unfair for those living in rural Iowa to travel so far for medical care.

Whatever is needed, one should not have to travel more than 15 minutes for a doctor. Receiving preventative care is important and when people must travel farther for it, they may skip or not receive it. Thus, potentially endangering themselves for the future and putting a bigger strain on the medical system if something were to occur. Unfortunately, like schools, farms, and businesses, consolidation will continue to happen in rural Iowa medical care. Whether it is the state helping care for its rural citizens or incentivizing the hospital systems to invest in rural parts of the state, something should be done to ensure every Iowan receives the highest quality of medical care.

As the hollowing out of rural America seems to be a full-steam-ahead locomotive, it will always be a struggle for rural America. While it is hard, it is worth fighting for a better way of life. Everyone should receive the best medical care. Demand those in office to provide for the people. At the end of the day, a healthy society needs healthy people.