YAZOO COUNTY, Miss. (WLBT) - The Rural Healthcare Workforce is almost non-existent in many small and rural communities and county across Mississippi, leaving many residents desperate for access to health care.
But in Yazoo County, there’s a boom in skilled professionals ready and willing to provide critical care.
The county has seen an increase in primary care doctors and nurse practitioners over the past decade, including at the Yazoo City Medical Clinic. Many of the people who work there are from the town and they say their goal is to help provide access to critical health care and eliminate health disparities in the Delta.
“We have a lot of people with heart problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, and a lot of people just have different problems,” said Yazoo County resident Debra Winters.
Winters says this health care clinic is the reason why she is alive today. “I would have been gone some years ago.”
She says it’s a blessing to have a place that provides care to everyone, including underinsured and uninsured in this rural county. Her favorite physician is Dr. Heath Scott.
“He has touched a lot of people in this town. I don’t know what we would do. I really don’t. You are going to make me cry now,” said an emotional Winters.
Those tears of joy are what makes Dr. Scott and his team to continue to work hard to provide top notch service to the sick.
“It is very gratifying to see someone that you saw last week with a bad ankle, and you see them walking around Wal-Mart. It’s really nice that you see that patient you saw last week that was in congestive heart failure, and you now see them walking downtown and know they’re doing okay. It very gratifying,” said Scott.
According to the United Census Bureau, there are a little more than 28,000 people live in Yazoo County. Yet, 36.4% of the population lives in poverty.
“You are providing care for people that would not necessarily have it. Sometimes you are the first and last medical person that person will see,” said Scott.
While many rural areas are in desperate need for healthcare workers, Yazoo County is seeing growth.
Statistics show that in 2010, Yazoo County had four doctors and eight nurse practitioners. In 2018, the numbers grow to seven primary care doctors and 19 nurse practitioners.
“Access to care many people are able to stay and work in the community and make the community stronger.”
Etta Saxton agrees. The registered nurse and clinical manger fought back tears as she talked about the need for health care in underserved communities.
“It is heartbreaking to see that there are people who are not being taken care of due to being in a rural area or a small community,” she said. “There are times we are here, and we need to get people home and it’s nothing for us to say we will run you home really quick. That’s the beauty of being in a small town and small community, and our patients love that they don’t have to drive an hour to get awesome service.”
Senator Joseph C. Thomas represents District 22. Yazoo County is part of his district. He says Yazoo City Medical Clinic is one of at least 7 clinics located in the county as well as a hospital that serves residents.
“The Mississippi Baptist Medical Center brought a lot of doctors, providers, programs to the table. So, we really have a health system by being part of the Baptist Health Center,” Sen. Thomas said.
Thomas believes Yazoo County proximity to bigger cities like Jackson and Madison is a reason for the increase in healthcare workers.
“It’s a crucial need in the Delta for doctors and hospitals. I have one area, Humphreys County, the whole county doesn’t have a hospital. So, we have been trying to look at and getting a hospital in Humphreys County.”
Thomas believes if Mississippi would expand Medicaid and provide more incentives, it could be the game changer in attracting and retaining more trained and skilled healthcare professionals. He says it could also help encourage more hospitals to open and stay in the undeserved areas.
“We do need more, it won’t happen overnight, but we do need more,” he stated.
Until then, Yazoo City Medical Clinic says it will keep on providing lifesaving service to those in need.