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State Representative District 76
Tennessee General Assembly
425 5th Avenue North
Suite 400 Cordell Hull Bldg.
Nashville, TN 37243
Dear Representative Holt:
I am a former resident of McKenzie and professor for the Bethel University Physician Assistant Program. I am writing to express my concern for the closing of the McKenzie Hospital. My concerns are twofold.
First and foremost, as a pro-life Christian and Physician Assistant, I am deeply concerned for the pregnant TNCare women of the area. As far as I can tell, McKenzie is the only hospital that has OB/GYNs and Nurse Midwives who accept TNCare. The next closest areas are Martin and Jackson. You know how rural and poor our area is. I fear that for many of these women the loss of the hospital in McKenzie will mean that they cannot get the prenatal care they require. The OB/GYNs and nurse midwives cannot practice in an area where they cannot safely deliver and will therefore leave. This will result in more complications for both the mother and baby, as numerous studies have shown. According to an article this year from the Journal of the American Medical Association, “Loss of hospital-based obstetric care in rural counties not adjacent to urban areas was significantly associated with increases in births in hospitals without obstetric units (3.06 percentage points), and preterm births (0.67 percentage points), compared with counties with continual obstetric services.” If a mother is on TNCare she is already poor. Asking her to take more time from work and to spend more money on gas to get to a prenatal visit may be more than she can afford to do. It may be a choice between providing for the child already here at the expense of the child yet to be born. I believe these complications will result in greater poverty in the area. As a member of the TN Right to Life and a Christian, I felt that you will share my concerns. As we say in medicine, “the best way to protect the baby, is to take care of the mother.”
Secondly, I am professor for the Bethel University Physician Assistant program. You may not be aware but there is a national shortage of training sites (residencies/rotations/etc.) for Medical Schools, PA schools, and Nurse Practioner schools. Our school is the only PA School in a rural area in west or middle Tennessee. In February of 2016, Bethel University’s Physician Assistant Program was recognized by the Rural Health Research Center as number 6 of the top 15 PA programs that graduated proportionally more PAs who practice in a rural setting. Every year we have students from other parts of the country who move to TN because of this program. Many of them stay! As I am sure you are aware rural west Tenn. is a medical field desert. My program is trying to change that. We have relied heavily on the McKenzie hospital and the McKenzie Medical Center OB/GYNs and Nurse Midwives for Emergency Department and Women’s Health rotations. With the hospital leaving we are losing those rotations! Placing students in this area is what draws them to stay and work here once they graduate. Lastly there is the loss of jobs. Carroll County and McKenzie are poor. This county is in the top 10 for highest unemployment in the state. Losing that many jobs will only make it worse!
I ask you to please look into this issue. You are a member of Long Heights Baptist Church. Your fellow church members will be hurt by this. At the very least, please see if you can get Huntingdon or Paris to start accepting TNCare for OB care. This area cannot afford to lose this hospital.
I am looking forward to your response.