Lt. Governor Kehoe makes healthcare swing through Hannibal

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From left, State Rep. Louis Riggs, Todd Ahrens, president and CEO of Hannibal Regional Health Systems, and Lt. Gov. Mike Keheo. Photo by Megan Duncan

HANNIBAL, Mo. — Missouri Lt. Gov, Mike Kehoe made a visit and toured the facilities at Hannibal Regional Healthcare System on Friday afternoon.

Kehoe, who is running for governor in the Aug. 6 Missouri primary, has been focusing on rural healthcare and workforce development in Missouri. He said access to healthcare in rural areas is an issue in every corner of the state. 

“Finding out how communities are dealing with that challenge is very important to us. It’s a main factor in how our economy grows and our citizens’ quality of life,” he said.

Roughly a third of Missourians who live in rural counties have to travel 30 miles to the nearest hospital, according to the state’s latest rural health report. 

The Missouri Dept. of Health and Senior Services reports that 42 of the 114 Missouri counties do not have a general access hospital, and in the last 10 years, 19 hospitals around the state closed. Twelve of the hospitals that closed were located in rural counties.

Hannibal Regional Medical Group has locations in Hannibal, Canton, Monroe City, Bowling Green, Louisiana, and Shelbina. Walk-in medical care is available in Hannibal and Bowling Green. Kehoe said it’s important to make sure these kinds of rural healthcare clinics have the resources to thrive.

“These clinics are in areas and communities that would be under-served or have no service otherwise, so making sure they have what they need to provide that service is important,” he said. 

Kehoe said the declining medical workforce has also been a cause for concern in rural areas all over the state.

The Health Resources & Services Administration reports nearly every county in the state is experiencing a shortage of doctors, nurses and hospital staff. Rural counties are especially affected, as 37 percent of Missourians live in rural communities, but only 18 percent of Missouri physicians practice there.

According to industry experts, the shortage is from the large demand for healthcare services from the aging “baby boomer” generation. This was intensified during the pressures of the pandemic. 

Because many medical professionals practice where they graduate, Kehoe also said keeping medical students in the area is important.

“What can we do to get more resources into nursing schools? What can we do to make sure that we have more options for our men and ladies who want to get in those professions?” he asked.

Hannibal Regional Healthcare System has a 90 percent employee retention rate, and Kehoe called them a good model for rural healthcare employment.

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