The outward migration taking place across the heartland has greatly impacted rural communities over the last couple of decades. Experts will tell you the corner stone of any prospering rural town is its healthcare. On October 5th the Avera Rural Health Institute is holding it's annual conference in Sioux Falls to help prevent the death of rural America. We went to Parkston to showcase a shining example of community vitality and a flourishing healthcare system.
The Avera St. Benedict Health Center in Parkston is the largest employer in the area. It's also the poster facility for how working with the Avera Rural Health Institute can be so beneficial on a number of levels.
Avera St. Benedict Health Center CEO/President Gale Walker says, "When it comes to eServices for Avera St. Benedict, we've been very fortunate working with the Avera Rural Health Institute. They helped us put in tele-radiology, put in eICU. Avera St. Benedict was the first rural critical access eICU in the nation. We put it in years ago now we have eEmergency, ePharmacy, ePrescribing."
Avera's eCare or electronic services have been instrumental in the retention of rural healthcare. Through amazing technology and two way monitors, specialists in the eEmergency bunker at Avera McKennan can see and hear everything that is going on in this emergency room at Avera St. Benedict 90 miles away. Equipment paid for through a grant secured by the Avera Rural Health Institute.
Vice President of Rural Health Services for the Avera Rural Health Institute Rachel Sherard says, "Because our focus is very much about providing the best quality of care locally, we have integrated some key services in our eCare services. That will be the last part of the conference discussed and Gale Walker will be addressing that."
This small community of 1600 has a thriving downtown. You won't see any vacant store fronts on Main Street and Gale Walker says Avera St. Benedict has a lot to do with that.
Walker says, "Yes, we have a great impact on our community and our community is very supportive of the healthcare services provided locally. As you know rural communities are having a tough time keeping their population base up. We are an aging population in rural America so all these eServices that allow us to provide that service close to home makes people feel more comfortable."
If the vitality of a rural community is grounded in its healthcare system, it's no wonder Parkston continues to grow and prosper in rural America.
For more information about the Oct. 5th Avera Rural Health Conference: