GRUNDY CENTER — Expanding rural access to healthcare was in focus Friday morning as U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) toured the Grundy County Memorial Hospital (GCMH) in Grundy Center as the building undergoes a major $31 million addition.
The 24,000 square foot space will house a new surgery center and imaging department for the hospital. The project also includes doubling the size of the current laboratory department, and the first phase is slated to be completed by the end of the year.
As Hinson said, the local buy-in for the project, which includes a long list of community partners helping to finance the expansion, showcases not only a need, but a collective desire for the future success of the local healthcare center.
“There is a vested interest here specifically in keeping rural health care access alive and well. Clearly, the need and the demand is there,” Hinson said. “We had a conversation about the maternal health care desert. That’s a signal to me that I need to still prioritize that during my work in Washington, DC.”
Grundy County is considered a “maternity care desert,” according to the nonprofit organization the March of Dimes, which defines maternity care deserts as any county without a hospital or birth center offering obstetric care and without any obstetric providers.
For Hinson, she said the conversation about access to local maternity care helped remind her to continue working at the federal level to bring maternity care to rural Iowans.
“I’ve introduced legislation to help increase access to midwives and help make sure that we’re incentivizing birthing centers to be able to operate,” she said. “I think it just reaffirms to me that I know I’m on the right path in supporting those initiatives.”
GCMH is also considered a critical access hospital (CAH), which provides essential healthcare services in rural communities and is vital to ensuring the health and well-being of rural Iowa residents, and as Hinson said, it’s places like this that help keep rural Iowa alive.
“If we’re looking at ways to keep rural areas of our country alive and vibrant, it’s access to goods and services, it’s economic opportunity, it’s healthcare access,” she said. “We want people to grow up in rural Iowa and stay in rural Iowa, and the way you do that is with access to these services.”
The tour of GCMH was the latest stop as part of Hinson’s regular visits to counties within her district, and she indicated she is hearing worries from constituents about immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border, particularly from area law enforcement officers.
“There is a lot of concern over why our southern border is not secure, and I still continue to hear that,” Hinson said. “I think it goes without saying our local law enforcement is keenly aware of what’s happening at our southern border.”
Hinson added that some rural constituents raised issues with the recent EPA ruling establishing a definition of which “Waters of the United States” are protected by the Clean Water Act.
“I think [it’s an] overstep by the EPA to really regulate, down to the granular level on our farms and our land,” Hinson said. “(There’s been) a lot of pushback from our communities on that regulation, and so I’ve heard a lot of concern over the future of that rule and regulation.”
Contact Nick Baur at 641-753-6611 or email@example.com.