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Every story matters: Lifting the voices of Georgia health care consumers

This week GHF’s Outreach and Education Manager, Alyssa Green, takes some time to share her experiences and reflections from traveling across Georgia to collect consumer stories.

 

As the Outreach and Education Manager, I am tasked with the responsibility of traveling around the state to collect consumer stories. My travel and conversations with consumers provides a wonderful opportunity to better understand the health care issues many Georgians face. This past year, I’ve been to many Georgia communities and one place that has had a particularly significant impact on me has been Clay county.

Located in the Southwest region of the state, Clay county has one practicing physician, Dr. Karen Kinsell. Dr. Kinsell is a volunteer physician who provides medical care to approximately 3,000 patients in a small office building in that once served as a Tastee Freeze stand. There is a liquor store next door where patients have been known to buy alcohol while waiting to be seen.

Rural areas of the state have struggled economically for years, and Fort Gaines, the county seat, is no exception. Since 2013, two nearby hospitals have closed, the county has seen an exodus of physicians and other providers, and this year, the county’s only pharmacy closed. As a result, Clay county residents have increasingly had to seek treatment outside of their community, forcing them to travel more than an hour in one direction for doctor’s appointments and prescriptions. Limited access to transportation, job security, and limited opportunity for quality education has made recruiting and retaining health care providers and facilities nearly impossible. 

These circumstances lead to community members forgoing care and relying on home remedies for serious health conditions. I’ve met a few of Dr. Kinsell’s patients and they all had distressing stories about their health and health care. They’ve told me stories about being turned away from hospitals after experiencing a stroke, self-medicating with alcohol for severe dental problems, and hoping a suspected blood clot isn’t “that serious.” If it were not for Dr. Kinsell’s compassion and generosity, many Clay county residents would likely have to go without any medical care at all.

Seeing the statistics that come out of rural Georgia is concerning, but meeting the people behind the numbers can be heartbreaking. Each of these stories matters individually, and here at GHF, we think there is great value in lifting up the voices and experiences of individual consumers. But collectively these stories are even more powerful. They speak to the great need that exists across Georgia for an equitable, accessible, affordable health care system that provides quality care to every Georgian regardless of geography, income, or demographic.


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