Sharp County Community Spotlight: Medical Community To Get Boost

July 17, 2007 - Posted at 9:21 p.m. CDT

SHARP COUNTY SPOTLIGHT -- Sharp County is rural county that has a large retirement is also one of the few counties in Region 8 without a hospital.  We report on the challenges of providing quality medical services to area residents.

After the Eastern Ozarks Regional Health System closed its doors, Sharp County has had a need for better medical coverage.

That's according to County Judge Larry Brown.

"I think it has been a drawback a lot of people come here to retire and then we don't have the long term healthcare here especially emergency care," said Brown.

Thanks to a partnership between local physicians and the White River Medical Center residents will soon have more comprehensive medical coverage.

"We are going to open up this facility with CT scanning, bone density, ultrasound, mammography as an outpatient basis along with physical therapy," said North Complex administrator Joe Walls.

Walls says the new facility will have just about the same services as the hospital did and in some cases some will be even better.

"What they said they really wanted was a place where they could get their testing without driving to Batesville, Mountain Home or St. Bernards," said Walls.

The good news for Sharp County is the new facility will have all the capabilities and equipment as an emergency room however because of federal regulations requiring emergency rooms must be located in a hospital it can only be considered an urgent care clinic.

"We are talking to our congressmen and our senators to try to get some of these rules changes so that I can have an emergency room here where I wouldn't have to have a hospital," said Walls.

As it stands now, the urgent care portion would be open until 11:00 p.m. each night.  That means there's no medical care in the county from 11:00 p.m.  until 7:00 a.m.

Judge Brown says that isn't enough.

"We are getting a new center that will be great but we need some kind of 24 hour care for some of our senior citizens," said Brown.

The easy answer would be a hospital however after conducting a survey White River Medical Center concluded they would lose more than a million dollars a year operating that kind of facility.

"It showed that a hospital could not survive without a lot of tax payer money," said Brown.

White River Medical Center says they aren't opposed to all night urgent care but they have to have assistance.

"We would want them to help us if they wanted 24 hour a day," said Walls.

And that may be easier said than done as these cities work to provide its residents with immediate health care. The other major holdup to 24 hour a day service is the tough task of finding qualified nurses and physicians necessary to staff the additional hours.