Lawmakers, hospital officials work to better serve Northeast Arkansas

Updated: Oct. 8, 2019 at 5:22 PM CDT
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Arkansas State University hosted a joint meeting between doctors and lawmakers to discuss how to get more doctors in rural parts of the state, and moving patients away from emergency room care.

The event brought the presidents and CEOs of three local and regional hospitals together: Chris Barber, president of St. Bernards Healthcare; Brad Parsons, CEO of NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital; and Michael Wiggins, president of Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.

Parsons said one particular issue they’re seeing is patients overusing emergency room care.

“People access care through the emergency department. We have to fundamentally change that within health care. That is the wrong place to access care unless it’s a true emergency," Parsons said. "A lot of people are still accessing the emergency department today because it’s the only place they know to access the health care system.”

The panel discussed finding ways to get more doctors and health offices in rural areas to help alleviate emergency room visits, as well as improve the health of residents.

An Association of American Medical Colleges report shows the United States will see a shortage of nearly 122,000 physicians by 2032 as demand for physicians continues to grow faster than supply.

The lawmakers and hospital officials also discussed finding ways to better serve the rural areas of Northeast Arkansas, especially in light of the recent hospital closings in Kennett and Cherokee Village.

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