Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Walker Gets Closer to an Emergency Room

Legislation that would bring Cass County residents miles closer to a hospital emergency room has been introduced in Congress. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Congressman Jim Oberstar introduced legislation to secure critical access hospital designation for the Cass County hospital project in Walker.

Cass is one of only three Minnesota counties without an emergency-access hospital. Residents of north-central Cass County have to travel up to an hour or more to hospitals in Bemidji, Park Rapids, Deer River, Crosby, Staples or Brainerd to seek urgent care in emergency rooms.

"When people need urgent care every second counts, it is a proven fact that survival rates after heart attacks and car accidents rise dramatically when an emergency room is nearby," said Oberstar. "The current law does not take the difficulty of driving in Northeast Minnesota's winter weather into account, a distance of 35 miles as the crow flies can take over an hour to reach on Cass County roads. We are going to make certain that life saving treatment is close to Cass County residents."

In 2006, the Cass County Health Task Force worked with state, county, and local officials to transform the Ah-Gwah-Ching long-term care facility into an integrated medical campus that would include a 25-bed critical access hospital. However, a federal rule required emergency hospitals to be spaced at least 35 miles apart. Because the Ah-Gwah-Ching facility is 31.9 miles from Park Rapids, it was not eligible. Hospitals with critical access status are eligible for full Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, an important source of revenue.

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