National Rural Health Day Celebrates the Power of Rural

FAIRBURY – Jefferson Community Health & Life celebrates the Power of Rural on the 10th annual Rural Health Day on Thursday, Nov. 19.

The National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health sets aside the third Thursday of every November – November 19, 2020 – to celebrate National Rural Health Day. First and foremost, National Rural Health Day is an opportunity to “Celebrate the Power of Rural” by honoring the selfless, community-minded, “can do” spirit of that prevails in rural America. But it also provides an opportunity to bring to light the unique healthcare challenges that rural citizens face – and showcase the efforts of rural healthcare providers, State Offices of Rural Health and other rural stakeholders to address those challenges.

Jefferson Community Health & Life is one of more than 1,200 Critical Access Hospitals in the United States, and 65 Critical Access Hospitals in the state of Nebraska. The Critical Access Hospital designation is designed to reduce the financial vulnerability of rural hospitals and improve access to healthcare by keeping essential services in rural communities. Critical Access Hospitals receive cost-based Medicare reimbursement. Jefferson Community Health Center became a Critical Access Hospital in 2000.

“Being a Critical Access Hospital does not limit us in the services we can provide for our area residents. It helps us to offer services which might be less affordable because of fewer patients needing the services,” said Burke Kline, DHA, JCH&L CEO.

Health care organizations are important for rural communities – not only for accessibility and availability of health care, but also for economic development. Jefferson Community Health & Life is one of many health care providers in Jefferson County, and is the largest health care employer, with more than 250 staff members. JCH&L is consistently one of the top three employers in Jefferson County. Each year JCH&L pays its staff more than $11 million in salary and provides more than $2 million in benefits.

“The jobs at JCH&L require a wide variety of skills, training and education,” Kline said. “We employ high school students who are just getting started with part-time jobs and on-the-job training, all the way through the spectrum of educational levels to those with advanced medical degrees.”

JCH&L’s primary service area is Jefferson County, with 7,097, residents as of 2018. Some patients also come from surrounding counties in Nebraska and Kansas. The residents of southeast Nebraska are among nearly 57 million people who choose to live and work in rural areas nationally. Rural residents make up 19 percent of the U.S. population, but are spread across 72 percent of the land area.

Small towns, farming communities and frontier areas are places where neighbors know each other, respect each other and work together to benefit the greater good. They provide opportunities to start business and test entrepreneurial spirit.

Rural communities also have unique healthcare needs. Rural communities must address accessibility, provider shortages, the needs of an aging population, increasing chronic conditions, and largest percentages of uninsured and underinsured citizens, says the National Rural Health Association.

Jefferson Community Health & Life operates a 17-bed, acute-care Critical Access Hospital in Fairbury, Neb., offering inpatient and outpatient services, including surgery, therapy, screenings, and 24-hour emergency services. Jefferson Community Health & Life offers additional health and life services, including Fairbury and Plymouth clinics (primary and family care), Burkley Fitness Center, Gardenside (long-term care), and Home Health services. In addition, Jefferson Community Health & Life supports numerous education programs and support groups. JCH&L has offered services to residents of Jefferson County and the surrounding area since 1963, and continues to grow and change as the area’s needs change.

“We strive to fulfil our vision of being a trusted partner for a lifetime of health,” Kline said. “While JCHL can’t offer every healthcare service needed by our area residents, we are proud to offer a great many services which give area residents the opportunity to receive quality healthcare in a convenient location with professional and compassionate staff. Our area residents have much to celebrate on National Rural Health Day.”