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Despite tough environment for rural health care, area hospital expanding

Despite tough environment for rural...

LANCASTER, Wis. - It's no secret that America's rural hospitals are struggling. 

According to the Chartis Center for Rural Health, 80 rural hospitals nationwide have closed since 2010. Another 673 are in danger of closing. 

However, one rural hospital in our area is expanding. Grant Regional Health Center in Lancaster is in the midst of a $20+ million construction project to add around 32,000 square feet of new space and renovate 39,000 square feet of existing space.

New additions include modern inpatient facilities with private bathrooms, a rooftop heliport, a fixed in-house MRI, an expanded emergency department and additional parking.

"We see a lot of patients during the day and we're simply out of space," hospital spokesperson Rochelle Williams said.

Williams said the hospital hopes the expansions will make for a more modern and safer facility.  The hospital purchased land from the city in order to make the expansion feasible.

Despite the fact that Grant Regional is faring comparatively well, Williams said the hospital does experience challenges as a rural hospital, especially when it comes to hiring doctors.

"It's a struggle," Williams said. "They have a lot of opportunities in bigger cities." 

One physician the hospital didn't have trouble bringing in is Dr. James Rosser.

Rosser, who has been at the hospital for nearly a year after working in the Orlando area, leads the hospital's Center for Advanced Treatment of Heartburn; he's also seen nationally on "The Dr. Oz Show."

He said he chose Grant Regional because the hospital allows him the flexibility to continue practicing medicine while educating patients via TV and radio.

Rosser said he also finds rural health care to be rewarding.

"I like the intimacy. I like getting to know people," Rosser said. "I like going to the bait shop, getting my coffee, saying 'hi' to everybody." 

Rosser said for rural hospitals to remain part of their communities, they'll have to reach out beyond their walls.

"We want to expand into the telemedical realm, to be able to provide services even farther out in the periphery," he said. "You need to be able to take care of people early rather than late."

Rosser said rural hospitals have an important place in keeping America's overall health care costs down.

"If you make people travel, you ration health care," he said. "People will not travel to have early-on engagement. They will wait very late, and that is not only harmful, but very costly to the system." 

Grant Regional Health Center hopes to finish construction by the beginning of 2019.


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