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Metcalfe, Hart, Edmonson counties considered ‘medically underserved’ for decades

Published: Mar. 9, 2021 at 11:05 AM CST
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Ky. (WBKO) - Gray Television and WBKO will spend the year investigating medically underserved communities in the Appalachia and Mississippi Delta regions through a series of monthly segments.

According to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Agency, there are three medically underserved counties in southcentral Kentucky which include Edmonson, Metcalfe and Hart.

Home for everyone is different. For some, it’s the city, or suburbs. For others, their home is tucked away in a quiet, quaint community surrounded by hills, streams and agriculture.

“We’ve got one of the prettiest counties here that you’ll find anywhere,” said Edmonson County Judge-Executive Wil Cannon.

However, in some cases, the simple life comes at a cost- healthcare.

“It’s hard to get doctors to come to a small community like Brownville, Horse Cave, Munfordville, Edmonton,” said Representative Michael Meredith (R-KY-District 19) who represents Edmonson County and part of Warren County.

Fifty-three percent of Kentucky is considered medically underserved. The U.S. Health Resources and Services Agency found that Edmonson and Metcalfe counties have been designated as such since 1978, Hart since 1999.

“We’re not going to have a hospital here, it just wouldn’t be able to sustain itself, or any specialty medical care here. It’s just not going to happen because it’s a business,” said Cannon.

Being assigned as medically underserved is based on few primary doctors, high infant mortality rate, high poverty and high elderly population.

“For the population size, we probably have less business in this industry in Edmonson County than most other counties with our same population, because of the locality that we’re in -- the geographic area that we sit in,” explained Cannon.

It is 20 minutes from the interstate from the heart of Edmonson County. A town with no stoplights, Brownsville has four medical clinics, two pharmacies, but is 30 minutes away from a hospital.

“Basic medical care is here. But if you need any kind of specialized care, you have to travel to one of those other locations,” said Cannon.

In Metcalfe County, you have the T.J. Regional Health Edmonton Clinic. Meanwhile, Edmonton is nearly 20 minutes away from the hospital.

In Hart County, the Medical Center at Caverna opened its doors in 1967 with expansions in 1999, 2009 and 2014.

“Gives them a little bit more access,” said Representative Bart Rowland (R-KY-District 21) who represents Hardin (Part), Hart, Metcalfe, Monroe counties, in regards to the hospital in Caverna.

So, what’s being done to alleviate the healthcare barriers for residents in these areas?

“One of the main ways we feel like, as a state, that we can increase access to health care hospitals, health care workers, is through economic development,” said Rowland.

“We’ve passed numerous legislation with regards to nurse practitioners over the years,” explained Meredith.

As hardships include lack of doctors, facilities, geographical location and poverty, 13 News will investigate specific issues prevalent in these three counties for the next year as part of The Great Health Divide.

“I think it’s going to take a broad-based approach and no one single thing is gonna fix it,” said Meredith.

Metcalfe and Edmonson counties are two of the 355 total counties and parishes in the Appalachia and Delta regions, designated as medically underserved for the longest amount of time at 43 years.

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